It’s tough to put into words the scene at Crawfordsville High School from Saturday night during the IHSAA Class 3A Sectional Championship between Crawfordsville and Greencastle.
The Tiger Cubs prevailed in overtime for a 52-51 win to seal their 35th sectional title in school history, their first since 2004, and first ever won away from their home floor. Brody Whitaker scored Greencastle’s last four points, including a layup with less than five seconds to play to seal the win for the Tiger Cubs. Karsten Williamson’s contested 18-footer was just off the mark for the Athenians, and Will Kellerman’s put-back rimmed out as the buzzer sounded and the Tiger Cubs began to celebrate on Crawfordsville’s home floor.
It was an instant classic, as emotions were high, the bleachers full, and every ounce of energy was focused on what Indiana does best — high school basketball.
“We played really well,” Athenians coach David Pierce said. “If we wanted a bucket, we were able to execute and get one, it just turned into who had the last bucket.”
Heading into the extra period, Crawfordsville (18-7) seemed to have all the momentum after overcoming a seven-point deficit in the last 2:39 of regulation to force overtime. Jesse Johnson-Hall hit 3-of-4 in two trips to the free throw line, and the Athenians took a 49-46 lead at the 1:50 mark in overtime. Greencastle responded with a Cade Plew basket and Whitaker free throws, before Whitaker’s final bucket answered a Johnson-Hall score. Whitaker scored 14 points for the Tiger Cubs, while Johnson-Hall had 15 for the Athenians.
At the 5:03 mark in the third quarter, Kellerman drove to the basket, scored, and gave Crawfordsville (18-7) what seemed to be a comfortable lead at 31-22. The Athenians were firing on all cylinders on both ends of the floor, while the Tiger Cubs were in disarray.
And poof, with the sound of a whistle that resulted in a Crawfordsville technical foul, the tides turned, and a 24-8 scoring run put the Tiger Cubs up 46-39, their largest lead of the game. Benton Parmley finally got freed up and knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to help fuel the run, as the Tiger Cubs knocked down 12-of-18 shots in the second half. The sophomore led Greencastle (21-4) with 15 points.
“I thought our kids were pretty resilient,” Greencastle coach Bryce Rector said. “To be down nine in the third quarter in an environment like it is on the road, I thought our kids never got to a point where they were concerned.”
As good as Crawfordsville’s defense was, forcing 12 Greencastle turnovers, the slightest mistake proved to be costly.
“They’re 21-4 for a reason,” Pierce said. “Those five (Bollman, Parmley, Plew, Sutherlin, Whitaker) play hard and they do the same thing over and over. They are perfecting their craft and your margin of error is really small.”
Led by their core group of seniors, Crawfordsville was not out of the fight though. Anthony Gonzalez buried a 3-pointer to make it 46-42, and Tray Scorza scored back-to-back buckets following missed free throws by the Tiger Cubs to tie the game in the final minute of regulation. The junior led all scorers with 17.
“We dug deep,” Pierce said. “The seniors came over and said ‘we are okay, something is going to click,’ And it did. They had a plan and they went and executed that and made some plays that you can’t predict or plan and it got us back in the game. That’s just a testament to their character.”
Redemption for Tiger Cubs
Last season Greencastle made it to the sectional final at Lebanon, only to lose to the host Tigers 43-28. All the returning players weren’t about to let the same happen on Saturday. The win proved to be one 365 days in the making according to Rector.
“We put up on the scoreboard 43-28, the score from last years’ sectional final all week in practice,” he said. “We watched the sectional final game on the first day of practice this year, and it was written on our chalkboard before every game this year. I think it drove a lot of our kids, and you saw in that game we weren’t ready for that moment, and tonight I thought we were.”
Greencastle will play Beech Grove (17-7) at 10 a.m. at Greencastle. The winner will play the winner of Indianapolis Crispus Attucks (18-8) and Owen Valley (14-12).