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- Retired American basketball player
NEW CASTLE – Jason Delaney calls Jaiden Malichi “the Dennis Rodman” of Cathedral’s basketball team.
Malichi, a 6-6 senior, does not always get many opportunities on a deep team, playing the same position as 6-11 junior Xavier Booker and 6-5 junior Jake Davis. But Malichi took full advantage of his chances in Thursday’s first round of the Raymond James Hall of Fame Classic, scoring eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter as Cathedral pulled away for a 62-50 win over Homestead.
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“We talk about opportunity all the time,” Delaney said. “Our mantra is, ‘When an opportunity comes, what are you going to do with it?’ Jaiden has got smaller opportunities at times playing behind Booker and Davis. That’s hard to do. I thought he got that opportunity and went in and made the most of it. We don’t win that game if not for Jaiden Malichi.”
Cathedral, ranked No. 10 in Class 4A, outscored the eighth-ranked Spartans 15-6 in the fourth quarter to move into Thursday night’s championship against Westfield, a 51-43 winner over Connersville in Thursday’s first game.
Connersville will play Homestead in the consolation at 6 p.m., followed by the championship.
Purdue recruit Fletcher Loyer scored 28 points to lead Homestead (7-4), but was limited to one free throw in the fourth quarter. None of the other Spartans scored more than seven points.
“Our plan was to make him work for everything he got,” Delaney said of Loyer. “I thought our guys did a great job in the second half of making him work for everything and maybe wearing his legs down so maybe those shots that were falling for him in the first half weren’t falling in the fourth quarter.”
Cathedral (6-2) was more balanced offensively as Jaxon Edwards led the way with 15 points. Tayshawn Comer added 14 points and five assists and Jaron Tibbs added 11 points and seven rebounds.
But it might not have happened if not for the contributions of Malichi, who was 5-for-7 from the floor and played the entire fourth quarter. He also added four rebounds. About the only negative was a technical after a dunk in the final minute when he slapped the backboard and drew an agonized shout of “Why!?” from Delaney.
“I go in and try to bring a lot of energy,” said Malichi, who was averaging 3.4 points and 3.0 rebounds through seven games. “Playing with a good team, I know I’m not going to get big minutes every single game. I love coming in off the bench and bringing energy for my team.”
Cathedral shot 57% from the field and limited Homestead to 34%. The Spartans led 13-5 in the early going, but the Irish rallied to take a 32-30 halftime lead.
Rodman – both the Detroit Pistons’ and Chicago Bulls’ version – was before Malichi’s time. But he is a fan of “The Worm.”
“He’s one of my favorite players,” Malichi said.
Delaney is a fan of Malichi playing like Rodman, too, minus the technical foul at the end of the game.
“He gives everything he’s got and sacrifices his body,” Delaney said. “He adds a different dimension of something we don’t have. It takes everyone bringing what they have to the table.”
In the first game, Westfield (5-2) had to fend off a late rally from Class 3A third-ranked Connersville. The Shamrocks led by nine points going into the fourth quarter, but could not shake the Spartans, who cut the deficit to 45-43 with 1:39 left.
But Nic DePasquale drove the lane to put Westfield ahead by four points and the Shamrocks pulled away from there. It was not the best shooting game for Purdue recruit Braden Smith, who was 3-for-11 from the field, but he still nearly managed a triple-double with eight points, nine rebounds and nine assists. He also had a team-high five steals.
“He didn’t have to score a tremendous amount today,” Westfield coach Shane Sumpter said. “There may be games where he has to do that, like the Homestead game when he had 30. Every game is different. But he certainly makes the rest of our team a lot better.”
Cam Haffner led a balanced Westfield attack with 11 points. DePasquale had 10 points, as did sophomore Trey Buchanan and 6-5 junior Alex Romack, who was 5-for-6 from the floor and had seven rebounds.
“He’s a really big deal for us because most teams are going to focus on our guards,” Haffner said of Romack. “Doing what he did today and going in and attacking is really going to open things up for everyone else. You can see the progress he’s making every week.”
Connersville (9-2) was led by Kaleb Sparks, who scored all 11 of his points in the second half as the Spartans rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit. Lucas Barron added eight points.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at 317-444-6649.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IHSAA basketball: Cathedral vs. Westfield in Hall of Fame Classic final