For a program on the brink of carving out a spot on the Mount Rushmore of the state’s top high school basketball dynasties, Carmel doesn’t act the part.
Of course, that’s a big reason why the Greyhounds are the two-time defending Class 4A champions. Coach Scott Heady’s team is about the action.
Senior Zach McRoberts’ performance in top-ranked Carmel’s 57-42 win over visiting Lawrence North on Friday was indicative of how the Greyhounds have gotten here and why they could win a third title in a row.
“He does it every night,” Heady said. “He does whatever we need him to do to be successful. He’s scoring more for us, but he’s still making the hustle plays and doing the dirty work that he’s done the last two years. He’s amazing.”
The 6-6 McRoberts, who is signed with Vermont, finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. But as it often is with McRoberts, the numbers didn’t tell the whole story. There was a blocked shot as he rotated to help on defense; there was a tipped offensive rebound to a teammate for an easy layup; there was a quick pass on a reversal for an open 3-pointer.
These are things that sometimes go unnoticed in compiling recruiting rankings and all-star teams. They aren’t unnoticed by his coach.
“He’s (guarded) a Who’s Who of guys in the last three years,” Heady said. “Major college guys, Mr. Basketballs and Indiana All-Stars. He makes them work. He’s a winner; that’s how I would describe him.”
McRoberts had help offensively from junior teammate Ryan Cline, who finished with a team-high 16 points. Keegan Culp had nine points and Preston Flamion came off the bench to add seven.
Carmel (13-1, 6-0 Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference) closed the third quarter on a 9-2 run after Lawrence North (8-7, 2-4) had sliced the deficit to five points.
Lawrence North coach Jack Keefer, who won his 700th career game last weekend against Center Grove, was frustrated with Friday night’s performance.
“We just keep cutting our own throat,” Keefer said. “Carmel is a very good team. There’s nothing wrong with that team. But we’re as good as they are if we don’t make mistakes. It’s February. You can’t still be making the same mistakes.”
If there’s been a common theme to Carmel’s success the last three years, it’s that the Greyhounds rarely get in their own way. They share the ball, make the defense work and hunt for open shots. On defense, opponents don’t get anything easy.
It seems like a simple formula, right?
“Everybody’s a team guy and we all get along,” McRoberts said. “That’s a big part of who we are. It’s led to our success, so hopefully we can just keep it going.”
Heady doesn’t talk about three championships in a row, reminding this team that it hasn’t won anything yet. But the reminders hardly seem necessary. Carmel plays with a hunger that is unique for a program with its recent history of success.
“Defensively we feel like we’re where we’ve been, maybe even a little better in some aspects,” Heady said. “We’ve rebounded real well and haven’t turned the ball over a lot. We don’t talk much about what we’ve done, but we talk about how we’ve done it. But they also understand we don’t have a lot of margin for error.”
A 45-41 loss at Cathedral on Jan. 15 was a reminder. But Carmel has ripped off wins over Kokomo, Pike, Bowman Academy, Ben Davis and Lawrence North since, with none closer than 15 points.
Carmel looks ready for a strong finishing kick – again.
“If you see it’s working, it’s easy to get guys to buy in,” McRoberts said. “You see the reward, so you want to buy in.”