INDIANAPOLIS — Not satisfied with ending a 36-year sectional championship drought, the Eagles kept on rolling to eventual regional and semistate titles.
On Saturday, their historic run came to an end as defending state champion Washington handed Culver Military Academy a 61-46 loss in the Class 3A State Basketball Final at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Led by Indiana Mr. Basketball front-running candidate Cody Zeller’s 20 points and 18 rebounds, the Hatchets overcame a slow start to rally past CMA in the second period, ultimately outshooting, outrebounding and generally outplaying the Eagles for a repeat 3A title and their third such championship in four years. The storied program now owns seven state titles overall, tying it with Marion for second on the IHSAA’s all-time list.
“I’m proud of our team, proud of our leadership, but I’m also respectful of how good Washington is and how good Cody Zeller is,” said CMA head basketball coach Mark Galloway.
“He was a big influence on this game, and that’s the kind of player he is. He was able to do so many things. The thing that goes unnoticed sometimes is the way he handles the ball and can extend you out and make you guard him; he’s a 6-11 guy that can put it on the floor and extend the defense.”
Washington went 22 for 43 from the floor compared to a 20-for-53 effort by CMA and enjoyed a 38-21 rebounding advantage in the contest.
Zeller, who went on to win the Arthur L. Trester Mental Attitude Award for Class 3A , led all scorers and rebounders with 20 points and 18 boards while dishing out a pair of assists with two blocks and generally creating match-up problems all over the floor. Teammates Dylan Ervin and Anthony Curtis took advantage of any double- or triple-teams thrown at the solid 6-foot-11 IU recruit with 18 and 10 points, respectively.
After trailing 7-2 in the opening two minutes, CMA went on a 16-10 run stretching from the 5:46 mark of the first period until the end of the frame to take a slight 18-17 lead at the quarter break. With 7-foot-1 Eagles center Chier Ajou and 6-5 forward Juwan Brescacin both in foul trouble, the Hatchets retook the lead just 1:18 into the second quarter on an Ervin steal at the timeline for an uncontested layup, and Washington rolled on with a 14-6 run to grab a double-digit 35-24 halftime advantage and never trailed again.
The Hatchets held CMA to 3-for-10 shooting during the run after the Eagles’ 7-for-12 start in the first frame.
“I think Dylan had a couple big keys in that stretch and that got us going,” said Washington head coach Gene Miller. “Dylan’s, for the last two years, been one of our best defensive basketball players and he’s always making the big plays at the defensive end of the floor.
“I thought overall defensively we picked it up. After the first quarter they only scored 28 points, so I thought defensively we all stepped up.”
“I would say it was a combination of our shot selection and their defense,” said Galloway of the second frame Saturday. “We talk about getting good shots and we had good shots, but we needed to get better shots. That second quarter we didn’t get the best shot possible. We settled for some extended jumpers when we probably should’ve kept attacking and then we got down and we were trying to play some zone there to weather the storm with some foul trouble. Once we took some bad shots, that allowed them to take some easy ones, and they were able to score some easy baskets in that second quarter.”
Culver cut Washington’s lead back to single digits with a 6-4 mini-run to start the third capped off by a post bucket from University of Mexico recruit Ajou, but the Eagles never got closer than that 39-30 margin.
Ajou finished with 10 points for CMA, while fellow senior Brescacin tallied 12 and junior point guard Jermaine Myers scored a team-high 17 in the loss.
CMA bids goodbye to a cast of four seniors in starters Brescacin and Ajou as well as Peter Bin and Hyeong-Woo Kan.
“Chier and I, we try to lead by example on the court, but it’s the guys that you don’t really see — Hyeong-Woo Kan and Peter Bin —that don’t really play but give us that intensity in practice and give us those looks,” said Brescacin. “Those guys, they’d do anything just to step on the court, and a lot of our success has come from those guys.”
Although the Eagles came up shy of their ultimate goal of a state title, they close the season with plenty of positives to reflect back on after winning CMA its first sectional, regional and semistate boys basketball championships in Galloway’s first year at the helm.
“We definitely had a great season,” said Myer, who passed the 1,000-point career mark for Culver back in February. “Culver’s never been here before, and it was nice to get here. We wish we would’ve won the game, but we fell short. This is a great group of guys. This is the best group of guys I’ve ever been around.”
“I can’t say enough about how far we’ve come,” said Galloway. “If you had gotten to see us in our first practice, talking about being in the state championship, I wouldn’t have believed it just because how hard we had to work and how far we had to come.”
CLASS 3A BOYS BASKETBALL STATE FINAL
CULVER MILITARY 46
Score by quarters
CMA: 18 24 34 46
Washington: 17 35 48 61
CULVER MILITARY (46): Jermaine Myers 7 1-3 17, Hayes Barnes 2 0-0 5, Juwan Brescacin 6 0-0 12, Chier Ajou 4 2-2 10, Willie Strong 1 0-0 2, Alex Dodane 0 0-0 0, Eljay Murray 0 0-0 0, Aramonti Phillips 0 0-0 0, Peter Bin 0 0-0 0, David Dilts 0 0-0 0, Nick Zalduendo 0 0-0 0, Hyeong-Woo Kan 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 20 3-5 46.
WASHINGTON (61): Dylan Ervin 8 2-2 18, Kurtis Anthony 4 0-0 10, Cody Zeller 5 10-15 20, Robert Pittman 3 3-8 9, Cullen Arnold 0 0-0 0, Adam Lane 2 0-0 4, Jacob Stevens 0 0-0 0, Jayden Hawk 0 0-0 0, Tyler Stoll 0 0-0 0, Andy Garland 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 22 15-25 61.
3-point goals: CMA 3 (Myers 2, Barnes), Washington 2 (Anthony 2); Turnovers: CMA 10, Washington 14; Rebounds: CMA 21 (Brescacin 5, Strong 5), Washington 38 (Zeller 18); Total fouls (fouled out): CMA 19 (Ajou), Washington 8 (none). Records: CMA 19-7, Washington 24-4.