INDIANAPOLIS — A quick look at the Carmel Greyhounds basketball team perhaps leaves a lot to be desired.
As they take the court to begin the game, they boast three guards, all 6’0 or smaller. They don’t have a 7’0 big man, or even one at 6’8. But when the ball is tipped, and the game begins, all of those questions are soon thrown away.
Considering they went 16-4 in the regular season, Carmel didn’t garner much attention heading into sectional play – perhaps rightfully so. Carmel was a third wheel of an absolutely loaded sectional featuring No. 1 Hamilton Southeastern, and No. 2 North Central.
The Hounds caught a bit of a break as HSE and NC had to do battle in round one, as Gary Harris threw in a 35-footer at the buzzer to win. Carmel and HSE took care of business, and as the two teams met in the sectional championship it was seemingly a large mismatch.
HSE boasted Michigan State bound Gary Harris, Michigan bound, Zak Irvin, and PG Jacobby Bledsoe who has racked up plenty of D1 offers as well. Carmel boasted none of that, not one player has one D1 offer. But fast forward to early third quarter, the scoreboard read Carmel 51, HSE 29 en route to an onslaught of the number one team in the state in a dominating 81-63 victory of the state’s top team.
So how did a sectional with six D1 basketball players, and a D1 football player see none of them advance?
The answer is what makes basketball so great. Carmel’s top five guards are dead-eye shooters. Give them a foot, you’re also giving them three points.
Point guard Ben Gardner seemingly never makes the wrong decision, finding his teammates in the right spot at the right time. Sam Curts may be the best shooter on the team, but on defense is more than a handful, and has become the consensus choice for best defender in the state. The Volovic brothers don’t miss either. And the big men, Karl Schneider, Zach McRoberts, and IU football bound Shawn Heffern win every lose ball, gather every rebound, and do some scoring of their own.
In a basketball world of the individual athlete, Carmel plays a refreshing team game. They’re tremendously coached. When one player as a bad game, someone else picks him up. They swarm to the ball defensively. At times it seems like they have 6 defenders on the court.
In some ways it’s a tremendous underdog story.
Carmel went 10-13 last year and didn’t add anyone. After Carmel’s 80-67 victory last night in the 4A state championship, Carmel beat teams with a total of at least 6 D1 basketball players without any of their own (although I can think of a lot of D1 teams that could use a player like Curts or Gardner).
The title game was no different. RJ Hunter has 7 high major offers, and point guard Zavier Turner will be playing mid-major basketball somewhere in two years. But after the first quarter Pike was never really in the game.
Carmel provides a tremendous example to the rest of the state of Indiana. You don’t necessarily need a Big 10 basketball player to win a championship. And that team basketball can beat individual talent. And that a motion offense with stingy defense and rebounding do matter.