Can the Eagles slow down the Bulldogs?

Trey Galloway and Deonte Craig will be essential for CMA on Saturday
Ron Haramia
Sports Writer

When playing a rematch game – especially if you lost the first time – revenge is a natural motivator. And if a trophy is involved, a very large trophy?
Motivation will not be the problem for the Culver Academy boys basketball team when the Eagles tip-off against the Evansville Bosse Bulldogs for the second time this season. The challenge this go-round will be slowing down the state’s highest scoring team under the bright lights of Bankers Life Fieldhouse with the Class 3A high school boys basketball state championship on the line Saturday.
Bosse downed the Academy, 74-64, in Evansville back on December 16. So what has changed since?
Bosse went 19-4 after that mid-winter evening, losing to two 4A schools, a Kentucky school, and 17th-ranked (Class 3A) Vincennes Lincoln while averaging 83 points per game and giving up 63. Bosse’s average margin of victory (20.52) is the seventh best in the state, all classes. The Bulldogs have won their last 11 straight, but had to sweat through three missed shots by Danville in the final seconds of the semistate game to hold off the seventh-ranked Warriors, 64-61.
Culver Academy has lost only three times since losing to the Bulldogs – to 4A Fort Wayne North (who finished 21-6 and lost to 4A state finalist Carmel at regionals), Lake Forest Academy (Ill.) by three, and nationally-ranked LaLumiere by six and take a 10-game winning streak into the state finals. The Eagles average 62 ppg, but allow just 45.5. Their average margin of victory (16.79) is the 17th best in the state.
So can the Eagles slow down the Bulldogs? Do they try to outscore them? Keep them under 70? Score 70? Score 80 for only the fourth time all season? Here is a look at the key players from both schools that will decide the outcome.
Sizing up the opposition
Bosse is a fast, athletic, experienced team. Most of the Bulldogs’ seniors were part of the squad that lost at state two years ago and at the semistate level last year. They love to shoot, run, shoot, press, and shoot some more. Opponents have tried to slow them down, but with modest success. The ‘Dawgs have scored over 100 points three times and over 90 on 11 occasions. They have been in the 60s only five times, with the semistate total (64) the lowest output all season. They shoot 50% from the field overall and 40% from beyond the three-point line.
The top three players are all senior guards led by Mekhi Lairy. The 5-8 lefty, who wears jersey #2, is the all-time city scoring leader (2,209 points, 20th in state history), averaging 26 points per game, five rebounds and seven assists. He will play collegiately at Miami of Ohio from the Mid-American Conference (MAC). He had a high game of 49 points this season, which included nine 3s. He shoots 58% from the field, 48% on 3s, and 89% from the free throw line.
Jaylin Chinn (#1) is another quick guard (15 ppg) who will shoot any time from anywhere. De’Angelo Ware (#3) is a do-it-all player, who can score, pass, rebound and defend (12.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.6 apg). Javen Layne (#10) is a 6-3 junior forward who usually guards the opponents’ best player and 6-foot-9 sophomore Kiyron Powell (#52) anchors the backline of the defense (8.9 rpg). Key reserves are senior Jaylen Minor (#23, 8.7 ppg), 6-4 junior Donovan McNeal (#30), and senior E’Deviyon Cooper (#22, 7.7 ppg).
Academy playing to its strengths
Culver can play fast or slow and dictating the tempo may be the key to the game. The Eagles’ big three in scoring are junior Ethan Brittain-Watts (14.6 ppg) and sophomores Trey Galloway (14.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Deontae Craig (13.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg), but the team’s greatest strength may be how well they move the ball and play together.
Guard Brittain-Watts is dangerous because he can score in multiple ways - finishing fastbreaks, drives, 3s, or from the foul line (73%). Craig is a relentless rebounder – both offensively and defensively – while connecting on almost 60% of his field goals. Galloway can score inside and out or from the foul line. His height, 6-foot-4, has given opposing guards fits. It will be interesting to see if he can stay with Bosse’s guards.
Johnny Cohen’s ballhandling and passing (2.5 apg) will need to be strong against the Bulldogs’ pressure. Amari Curtis is a solid inside presence and will have to keep Powell and Layne off the boards. Reserves Henry Zehner, Jordon Freeman (57% FGs, 5.4 ppg), and 6-8 Nick Hittle (5.2 ppg) have been very reliable off the bench and the Eagles will need their energy and scoring punch.
So what can/will the Academy do to secure its first state championship in any sport and top the basketball runner-up finish in 2011? The guess here is they will run when it presents itself, but in general, will try to slow down the pace and be very deliberate on offense. A game in the 60’s or 70’s would give them the best chance. A shootout probably favors the ‘Dawgs.
If it comes down to free throws, Bosse shoots it a little better from the line (72% vs. 66%), but the Eagles have shown to be clutch when it matters. If the Academy can frustrate the Bulldogs, keep Lairy from going off, keep it from being fast break drills and Bosse shoots a low percentage, the Eagles chances go way up. If not?
State tourney tidbits
Class A Morristown head coach Scott McClelland attended and played basketball at Ancilla College in 1993-94.
If Warren Central wins the 4A game, it would only be the second time in history that the same school won both the boys and girls basketball state titles in the same year. The last time? Oregon-Davis in 2007.
Class 4A Warren Central head coach Criss Beyers was a graduate assistant for coach Bob Knight at Indiana University and part of the 1981 NCAA men’s basketball national championship staff.
Class 4A Carmel head coach Ryan Osborn experienced college basketball’s March Madness as a player for IUPUI in 2003. If Carmel wins, Osborn would be only the second coach ever to win a title in his first year as a head coach. (Christopher Hawkins of Indianapolis Crispus Attucks was the first last year.
The 4A championship game is between two teams from the same conference. The campuses of Culver Academy and Evansville Bosse on the other hand, are about as far away from each other as you can get in the state of Indiana (290 miles, 5 hour drive). Just ask the Academy bus driver who took the Eagles to Evansville back in December.