Carmel’s high school basketball rivals might want to come up with a new chant.
Maybe try killing ’em with kindness. Because, clearly, “Carmel sucks” isn’t working well for anybody but the Greyhounds.
A raucous Zionsville student section started in with the barb just before tipoff Saturday, then watched Carmel junior Ryan Cline bury his first six 3-pointers as the Class 4A top-ranked Greyhounds rolled to a 43-26 win.
“It was their senior night and they were excited,” Cline said. “I was excited to see all of them there, too.”
Cline’s white-hot start contributed to Carmel’s 22-5 lead to start the game. Zionsville, which had won 10 consecutive games coming in, plays predominantly zone defense.
“We lost him in the zone early, and you can’t lose Ryan Cline in the zone,” Zionsville coach Shaun Busick said. “I think he’s a Mr. Basketball candidate (for 2015). This guy can shoot it.”
Carmel coach Scott Heady calls Cline “the best shooter” he has coached in 19 years. It probably comes as no surprise that Cline holds similar high regard for Butler’s Kellen Dunham, who averaged nearly 30 points a game as a senior at Pendleton Heights two years ago.
As a pure shooter, Cline is in the same neighborhood as Dunham.
“He very seldom has a bad shooting day,” Heady said of Cline. “We see it every day. We knew that he’d have some good looks (against the zone). Give our guys credit because Keegan Culp and Zach (McRoberts) had some nice passes to him early.”
After the Cline 3-point avalanche, Zionsville (11-3) steadily chipped away to get within 26-17 early in the third quarter after back-to-back baskets by 7-foot junior Derrik Smits. The Greyhounds’ defense dug in from there, though, allowing just three field goals over the game’s final 14 minutes.
It was the second-lowest opponent point total of the season allowed by Carmel, which came in surrendering just 42.1 points per game.
“More than anything, I thought we were really solid with our defense,” Heady said. “There were some long possessions, where they’d pass it eight or 10 times and we stuck with it. We don’t see a lot of teams that want to grind out possessions like that.”
Smits finished with a team-high 13 points but was forced to sit out for stretches of both halves due to foul trouble.
The early 17-point deficit is a mountain against most teams. Against Carmel, a patient and smart offensive team, it’s like climbing Mount Everest with a 100-pound backpack.
“You don’t get 16 points on one possession,” Busick said. “If you do, I’d like to know how to do it. But there’s a reason Carmel is one of the best teams in America. They are disciplined and very intelligent.”
McRoberts, 6-6, scored nine of his 11 points after halftime for Carmel (14-1), which has won six in a row — all by at least 16 points — since a 45-41 loss to Cathedral on Jan. 15.
Cline has a scholarship offer from Northern Kentucky and said Butler, Purdue and Belmont are the three schools that have also been in the most frequent contact.
On Cline’s seventh 3-point attempt, his first miss, the crowd audibly gasped as it rolled off the rim.
“This guy has Butler written all over him as I watch him,” Busick said of Cline. “He reminds me of (former Butler player) Darnell Archey. He’s not a great athlete, but he’s a good athlete. But man, you give him a half-step and he’s going to knock it down.”
Carmel 43, Zionsville 26
Carmel……15 11 6 11- 43
Zionsville…5 8 7 6 – 26
Carmel (14-1) – Ryan Cline 7 0-0 21, Michael Bruns 1 2-4 4, Zach McRoberts 4 3-4 11, Parker Bernhold 0 0-0 0, Keegan Culp 1 0-0 3, Liam Duncan 1 2-2 4, Preston Flamion 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 7-10 43.
Zionsville (11-3) – Braden Hall 0 0-0 0, Michael Sollman 1 1-2 3, Jake Mann 2 0-0 5, Alex Sibila 1 1-4 3, Derrik Smits 5 3-3 13, Cassius Smits-Francisco 1 0-1 2, Davis Furman 0 0-0 0, Jordan Cox 0 0-0 0, Jack Pilcher 0 0-0 0, Guerin Wagner 0 0-0 0. Totals: 10 5-10 26.
3-point goals: Carmel 8 (Cline 7, Culp), Zionsville 1 (Mann)