Archive for March 12, 2013

CARMEL TOPS KOKOMO IN REGIONALS FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR

Kokomo's Tayler Persons drives to the basket against Carmel's Ryan Cline in Marion Regional action. (SJ photo: William Gibson)

Kokomo’s Tayler Persons drives to the basket against Carmel’s Ryan Cline in Marion Regional action. (SJ photo: William Gibson)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

MARION, Ind. – For a lot of programs that have an opponent with six letters in its name, the game ends in a loss to a highly-ranked and prestigious K-O-K-O-M-O. But the Wildkats have its own six-letter nemesis – C-A-R-M-E-L. For the 12th time in the last 13 meetings, the Hamilton County power got the best of the Kats. In the second semi-final of the IHSAA Class 4A Marion Regional, the defending state champion and No. 1-ranked Carmel Greyhounds topped No. 8 Kokomo 60-47, sending the Kats home for the second consecutive year.

“First of all, I am really proud of our guys. What a tremendous season we have had,” said Kokomo head coach Brian McCauley. “This is a great group of young men and it was a privilege to coach them.

“Carmel is a very good team. They had the lead and did a very good job of spreading the floor and they knocked down their free throws. We showed some guts by making some runs and keeping it close. But ultimately, some unforced turnovers hurt us. But I am proud of our guys for the effort.”

The Wildkats earned a berth in the 4A Sweet Sixteen for a third consecutive season, but for the second straight year they met Carmel – a team that has downed the Kats in 21 of 36 meetings. In fact, against opponents that Kokomo has met at least 25 times on the hardwood, the Greyhounds are one of only three teams to have a winning record (Anderson and Muncie Central are the other two).

The first half turned into a battle of runs: a 13-0 first quarter run by Carmel and a 13-2 run by Kokomo. The end result was a 22-21 Carmel lead at the half. But in the end, this game came down to two keys: foul trouble on senior LaBradford Sebree and free throw shooting.

“Having your senior leader on the bench didn’t help,” said McCauley. “LaBradford had a frustrating game and I feel for him. When he picked up those fouls, it definitely didn’t help us. The fourth foul, it was definitely a frustration foul.”

Sebree, Kokomo’s second leading scorer, picked up his third and fourth fouls in the first minute of the third quarter. He went to the bench, and Kokomo not only missed his shooting, but also his quick hands and footwork on defense. The Kats managed to stay close, trailing 31-29 at the 2:46 mark. But Carmel scored the final five of the stanza and outscored the Kats 14-8 in the third to take a seven point lead into the fourth quarter.

Carmel’s James Crowley started the fourth with a 3-point play, but Wildkat junior leading scorer Tayler Persons hit back-to-back buckets to cut the lead back to six. Sebree re-entered the contest and hit a triple to cut the lead to five at the 5:13 mark. At this point, Carmel was shooting two-shots on each foul – and they made the most of it. The Hounds hit its first 12 freebies of the game, and drained 16 of 19 in the decisive fourth quarter to seal the win.

Kokomo was led by the 13 point, five assist and three steals performance of Persons, a 2014 Mr. Basketball candidate. He finished his junior season with 913 career points and is on pace to become Kokomo’s third 1,300 point scorer (he would join the lofty company of Kokomo legends Goose Ligon and Jimmy Rayl). Hakim Burnett scored 11 and Sebree added 10.In his final game as a Wildkat, Kylee Beheler led the team in rebounds with five and hit the only shot he attempted.

Carmel was led by the 18 points of Crowley, while Michael Volovic added 16 and Zach McRoberts 11. The Greyhounds defeated New Haven 63-57 to advance to the Class 4A Final Four. No. 1 Carmel (23-2) plays Merrillville (22-3) for the right to play in the state finals. In the Seymour Semi-State, No. 13 Jeffersonville (24-3) battles No. 7 Indianapolis Cathedral (24-5).

For more Kokomo coverage, see the March 12 edition of the Sports Journal.

KATS WIN STATE RECORD 73RD SECTIONAL TITLE; COMPLETE 4A SWEET SIXTEEN PAIRINGS

IHSAA

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Kokomo High School has participated in 103 IHSAA post-season boys basketball tournaments. And for a state record 73rd time, the eighth-ranked Wildkats hoisted the sectional championship trophy after it defeated McCutcheon 64-43 in the finals of the Class 4A Sectional 7 at Lafayette Jefferson High School.

“It feels great. I have been at the last two sectionals Kokomo has won, but this is the first one I have participated in,” said Wildkat senior guard Hakim Burnett, who had a game high five assists in the championship game. “We played as a team today and that helped us get this big win.”

Against McCutcheon, a team Kokomo (21-2) beat by a single-point in its regular season meeting, Kokomo wasted little time in flexing its muscle. Tayler Persons, a 2014 Mr. Basketball candidate, scored seven first quarter points as Kokomo jumped to a 12-5 lead after one quarter. He nailed a 3-pointer to get the second stanza started, and by the time the halftime horn blared in the Marion L. Crawley Athletic Center, the Kats had outscored the Mavericks 17-2 to cruise into the locker room with a 29-7 lead.

“I thought this would be a close game,” said senior forward Kylee Beheler. “(Trevor) Lockwood is a pretty good player, but we shut him down. We worked hard to keep him out of the game. This feels good.”

With Kokomo on cruise control, they looked for 6-6 forward Erik Bowen in the middle, and he didn’t disappoint. The junior forward scored eight points in the third quarter as the Wildkats stretched its lead to 30. It was such a dominant performance that after Persons dropped in a jumper in the third – good for his 900th career point – he had outscored the entire McCutcheon team 19-13 through 24 minutes of play. Senior LaBradford Sebree put the game away with 11 fourth quarter points.

“We figured they would have some momentum after last night, so we wanted to get off to a good start – which we did,” said Sebree. “We just took the right shots tonight and looked to everyone to score. They outrebounded us last game, so we wanted to win the rebound battle (Kokomo won 31-15).”

Sebree referred to McCutcheon’s momentum. After Kokomo knocked off Lafayette Jeff 65-51 in the first Friday semi-final, McCutcheon squared off against Logansport. Despite having an 18 point third quarter lead, the Mavericks lost the lead late to Logansport. With the game tied, Logansport held for the game-winning shot, only to shoot an air ball from the baseline. McCutcheon’s Tre’shon Heard grabbed the air ball, turned around, and heaved a 78-foot shot that hit nothing but net to give his squad a miraculous 56-53 win. The shot, captured on cell phone video by KHS statistician Patrick Barrett, was the ESPN Sportscenter Play of the Day on March 1.

Sebree scored 17 points for Kokomo, while Bowen added eight. Nathaniel Acree led McCutcheon with 15 points, while Lockwood dropped in eight.

The Kats have won three more sectional titles than Vincennes Lincoln (70). Lafayette Jeff is third with 68, Marion fourth with 66 and Richmond fifth with 62. Only Vincennes joins Kokomo in the round of 16, albeit in Class 3A. The Wildkats first sectional title came in 1916.

Kokomo now advances to its third straight Marion Regional where they will play No. 1-ranked Carmel (20-2) in the second semi-final at noon on Saturday. Game one features Fort Wayne Northrop (18-7) and New Haven (16-5). The championship game is set for 8 p.m. between the two winners.

HOWARD COUNTY RESULTS

Only one other Howard County squad reached a sectional final game. Unfortunately for the Western Panthers, they lost 65-52 to West Lafayette in the Class 3A Twin Lakes Sectional. They advanced to the title game after avenging a regular season loss to Peru, knocking off the Bengal Tigers 66-52. The Panthers finished the season 13-9 under first-year coach Bart Miller.

For Northwestern, they also lost to West Lafayette, 46-27, in the first round of the Twin Lakes Sectional. The Tigers bowed out with an 11-10 record.

In the Class 2A Tipton Sectional, Taylor (5-17) drew a bye and faced No. 2 Tipton in the semi-final round. The Titans were no match for the loaded Blue Devils and lost 81-58. Tipton (22-2) advances to its own regional and will play Delphi (18-5) in the 10 a.m. opener on Saturday. Northfield (17-7) will battle No. 6 Wapahani (20-3) in game two with the winner meeting at 8 p.m. in the championship game.

For Eastern (3-18), it was a heartbreaking 64-62 loss to Alexandria in the opening round. Alex hit a game-winning basket with three seconds left.

For more on the game, see the March 5 edition of the Sports Journal.

IHSAA CLASS 4A REGIONAL BRACKETS (SWEET SIXTEEN)

MARION REGIONAL (NORTH)

10 am – FW Northrop (18-7) vs New Havein (16-5)

Noon – #7 Kokomo (21-2) vs #2 Carmel (20-2)

8 pm – Championship game

MICHIGAN CITY REGIONAL (NORTH)

10 am – Warsaw (12-10) vs #18 SB Adams (20-2)

Noon – #17 Merrillville (19-3) vs #1 Munster (24-0)

7:30 pm – Championship game

SEYMOUR REGIONAL (SOUTH)

10 am – #3 Columbus North (22-1) vs Frankline Central (10-10)

Noon – #11 Jeffersonville (21-3) vs #4 Evansville Harrison (21-1)

8 pm – Championship game

SOUTHPORT REGIONAL (SOUTH)

10 am – #13 Indianapolis Cathedral (21-5) vs Pendleton Heights (14-9)

Noon – Martinsville (12-9) vs #5 Pike (21-3)

8 pm – Championship game

LADY COMETS GARNER CLASS 2A STATE RUNNERS-UP FINISH; NEELEY WINS ATTITUDE AWARD

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – In the end, the best team won.

On a snowy afternoon in the land of Larry Bird, the Eastern Lady Comets dream ended with a 62-42 loss to defending state champion and No. 1-ranked Evansville Mater Dei in the championship game of the IHSAA Class 2A girls state finals. The Lady Wildcats pounded the ball inside time after time – something Eastern simply could not stop.

“That is something we could not simulate in practice,” said Eastern head coach Jeremy Dexter. “They were bigger than what we even thought they would be.”

The Comets held court early, trailing 5-3 but outplaying the Wildcats. But cold shooting proved to be fatal as they shot a chilly 21-percent and trailed 13-5 after one quarter and 35-14 at the half.

“Mater Dei played great in the first half; we just couldn’t hit our shots,” said Dexter.

The Comets shot better in the second half, but the 21 point deficit to the 2012 champions was too much to overcome.

Brittany Neeley led Eastern with 16 points, while Ally Oyler scored 12 and Bethany Neeley ended her career with eight. Mater Dei was led by the double-double of 18 points and 17 rebounds from Tori Schickel and 14 points from Beth Fischer.

MENTAL ATTITUDE AWARD

Eastern senior Brittany Neeley crowned her basketball career by being named the 2013 Class 2A Patricia L. Roy Mental Attitude Award Winner. She is the first Lady Comet to ever win the award.

“It means a lot,” said Neeley. “This is a great way to end your career. Words can’t describe this. We have a great community!”

For more on the Lady Comets run to the state finals, see the March 5 edition of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana.