IHSAA basketball: North Central, Ben Davis ease into Marion County tournament title game

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Pike coach Bill Zych compared what happened in the first quarter of Friday’s Marion County tournament semifinal game to a snowball rolling downhill. Imagine a sizeable snowball. Maybe an 800-pounder, gathering momentum from the top of Mt. Everest.

The Ben Davis boys basketball team is playing the role of the sizeable snowball, laying waste to the competition through the three games this week in the Marion County tournament. In a 69-42 semifinal win over Pike at Southport Fieldhouse, the Giants scored 31 points in the first quarter and enacted the 35-point running clock – implemented this year for the first time by the Indiana High School Athletic Association – in the first minute of the second half.

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“They have everything you need in a team,” Zych said of Ben Davis. “And they biggest thing to me, that I tried to tell our guys, is that they relish the defensive end. And they don’t care who scores. That’s a good team.”

Ben Davis (11-2) will take an 11-game winning streak into Saturday’s 7 p.m. championship game at Southport against North Central (9-3). The Panthers advanced in the first semifinal game with a 64-47 victory over host Southport.

The Giants, in pursuit of their first Marion County title since 1995, were similarly dominant in the earlier rounds of the tournament against Lawrence North (a 77-48 win) and Park Tudor (a 74-39 win). But this one was even more of a surprise considering Ben Davis defeated Pike 63-60 on Dec. 3 – and the Red Devils (9-2) had not lost since that game.

Sophomore K.J. Windham scored 16 points in the first quarter as the Giants did everything right. Zych burned two timeouts as the lead stretched from 12-2 to 19-5 to 31-9 by the end of the first quarter. Windham drained four 3-pointers in the first eight minutes.

“We had a real close game with them last time, but it shouldn’t been,” Windham said. “It should have been how it was tonight. We knew that and we locked in on everything we needed to do.”

It made for a memorable night for Ben Davis’ coach Don Carlisle’s 100th career win. Carlisle, in his fourth season with the Giants after three years at Arlington, was drenched with water as he emerged from the locker room, but had a chance of clothes ready before he left Southport.

“For me, it’s all defense,” Carlisle said. “I love the way they were locked in and executed the game plan defensively. And they were sharing the ball. For me, that’s what I envisioned for this group. I don’t know who you can put in front of us who we can’t take over the game defensively. I like where we are.”

Windham did not score again after the first quarter, but the damage was done. Junior guard Clay Butler led Ben Davis with 19 points and five steals and another junior guard, Sheridan Sharp, added eight points and four assists. The Giants led 48-16 at halftime and triggered the 35-point running clock in the first minute of the third quarter for the remainder of the half.

Ben Davis is clearly overflowing with confidence and chemistry and it shows.

“It’s fun because you know if one of us doesn’t have a good game, then someone else is going to have your back,” Windham said. “If it is a game where I start off slow and I’m not hitting, my team is going to do what they need to do to keep us in the game.”

After three tourney wins by an average margin of 30.3 points, it does not figure to be so easy for the Giants on Saturday. Ben Davis defeated North Central 50-47 just a week ago.

“It has to be the same energy on defense,” Carlisle said. “There was a point in the game where we built a double-digit lead and kind of let them creep back into it. They are a good team. They have size and can match up. It makes it tough for us because (6-6 junior) Joey Brown can play on the perimeter and (David) Lloyd is on a tear right now. They are a good team and coach (Kevin Gant) has them playing well.”

North Central is looking for its first Marion County title since 2012. The Panthers jumped out to a big advantage against Southport (7-6) in the first semifinal, leading 19-6 at the end of the first quarter and by 18 point early in the second. The Cardinals did not go away, getting as close as nine points early in the fourth quarter before North Central pulled away.

Lloyd led the Panthers with 17 points and Brown added 13, hitting 11-for-12 from the free-throw line. Davis Olson had eight points and 10 rebounds. A.J. Dancler led Southport with 25 points and Nickens Lemba added 10 points and 11 rebounds.

“I feel good about our team,” said Gant, in his first season at North Central. “I feel like our guys are locked in and are playing with some energy. They are staying in the moment as well. They aren’t too high or too low.”

Gant said he sees some similarities in his team and Carlisle’s team.

“We both put on our hard hats and go out there and compete,” Gant said. “Hats off to them, they made plays and made free throws the first time we played. Hopefully it’s going to come down to a possession game again and hopefully we’re on the other side of it. I think we’re up to that challenge.”

Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.

NORTH CENTRAL 64, SOUTHPORT 47

North Central 19 10 11 24 - 64

Southport 6 12 6 23 - 47

North Central (9-3) – Jolliffe 2 3-4 8, Fleming 1 0-0 3, Olson 3 0-0 8, Brown 1 11-12 13, Lloyd 8 0-2 17, Lewis 3 3-4 9, Woodson 2 1-2 6. Totals: 20 18-24 64.

Southport (7-6) – Dancler 9 4-7 25, Miller 3 2-2 9, Lemba 4 2-6 10, Handlon 1 0-0 3. Totals: 17 8-15 47.

3-pointers: North Central 6 (Olson 2, Lloyd, Woodson, Jolliffe, Fleming), Southport 5 (Dancler 3, Miller, Handlon).

BEN DAVIS 69, PIKE 42

Ben Davis 31 17 14 7 - 69

Pike 9 7 15 11 - 42

Ben Davis (11-2) – Sharp 2 4-7 8, Butler 7 4-5 Windham 6 0-0 16, Arnold 2 3-4 7, Doughty 2 0-2 4, Spates 1 1-2 3, Carnell 2 0-0 4, Troutman 1 0-0 2, Twyman 1 1-1 3, Faires 1 0-0 2. Totals: 25 13-21 69.

Pike (9-2) – Conwell 8 5-8 21, Casky 3 0-0 6, Porch 3 0-0 7, Annan 2 1-2 5, Woods 0 1-2 1, Robey 1 0-0 2. Totals: 17 7-14 42.

3-pointers: Ben Davis 6 (Windham 4, Butler, Troutman), Pike 1 (Porch).

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IHSAA basketball: North Central, Ben Davis advance to county title game

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