Christmas at Ryan Cline’s house will certainly be entertaining when “Uncle Jimmy” comes to visit.
Cline, the Purdue recruit and Carmel star, will have the bragging rights, even after New Albany coach Jim Shannon sent two defenders in his nephew’s face for most of Saturday night’s Class 4-A Top 10 clash. The No. 4 Greyhounds, with two sensational shooters, escaped with a 38-37 victory over the No. 6 Bulldogs.
Keegan Culp, an Air Force recruit, buried five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, while Cline chipped in 12. Even with their long-range peppering, Carmel (5-1) couldn’t salt New Albany away until two late shots were denied.
The Bulldogs (6-1) battled back from a 38-32 deficit in the final three minutes. Down by one with 30 seconds left, Shannon played for the win and had senior guard Davon Winburn hold the ball until the final 10 seconds. Winburn’s drive into the paint came up short.
Carmel’s Ethan Merriweather waded out of a scrum with the crucial rebound and was fouled. He missed the front of a one-and-one (Carmel’s only free throw of the game), with 3.3 seconds left, but New Albany’s Josh Jefferson also missed a rushed bomb at the buzzer.
That’s exactly the way a classic between potential state title contenders should end.
“I felt like, if we took the last shot, we could win the game,” Shannon said. “And I still feel that way. We went for the win.”
The preceding 31 minutes were as entertaining as the last one, especially from a defensive perspective. The difference was that Carmel’s stars rose to the occasion. Culp hit his first four from long range, staking the Greyhounds to an early lead, and Cline didn’t’ miss in the second half, even though his looks were limited by the in-his-shirt work of New Albany’s DeAnthony Warren.
“If I could have had him on both of them, I would have,” Shannon said.
New Albany had to find other sources of offense. Winburn was slowed by a sprained ankle and had only 6 points, while freshman Romeo Langford — the team’s scoring leader — faced seasoned opposition of similar size and scored 7.
Warren stepped into the void, scoring 13 points. He had two three-point plays as he attacked the rim against Carmel’s superior size — the Greyhounds started four at 6-foot-5 or taller.
Despite the obstacles, despite Culp’s zingers and Cline’s two bombs that powered Carmel to a nine-point lead in the third quarter, New Albany struggled back. Winburn finally scored twice from close range, and Warren muscled inside for a basket that cut the Carmel lead to 35-32.
Culp’s last basket, after Preston Flamion rebounded his own miss and kicked it out, was huge. But it also came with a lot of time to kill. Carmel turned the ball over five times in the fourth quarter against New Albany’s relentless pursuit, and free throws by Jefferson and Warren, plus Winburn’s rebound basket off a missed free throw, created the one-point margin and set the stage for the conclusion.
“We knew it would be hard-fought, tough,” Carmel said Scott Heady said. “They’re very good. If they were in Indianapolis, they would be right up there with anybody. We made the plays we had to make to win.”
Culp and Cline, a visitor to Shannon’s summer camps since he was 6 years old, combined to hit 11 of 18 shots (including 7 of 11 3-pointers).
“Keegan got us going,” Heady said. “They were tight on Ryan all night and didn’t give him a lot. He’s very unselfish, so he was more of a distributor. We really guarded well. We limited their transition, kept them out of the lane, and didn’t give them offensive rebounds. Those are the things they do well.”
Shannon wanted to see how his team stood against top-caliber competition. The answer is the Bulldogs are just a few inches, or one shot, short at the moment.
“We belong, we belong in the top 10,” Shannon said. “It’s December, not March, so we’re not devastated.”
Justin Sokeland can be reached at (502) 582-4059.
Carmel (5-1) – Keegan Culp 17, Ryan Cline 12, Sterling Brown 3, Trenton Richardson 4, Ethan Merriweather 2.
New Albany (6-1) – DeAnthony Warren 13, Romeo Langford 7, Nick White 3, Davon Winburn 6, Isaac Hibbard 6, Josh Jefferson 2.
3-point goals – Culp 5, Cline 2, Langford 1, Hibbard 2.