CARMEL – The play is called “Key.” It’s the equivalent of a Hail Mary in football. Maybe once a week, at most, the Carmel High School basketball team will run it in practice.
Does it work?
“No, not usually,” admitted P.J. Baron. “Some of the time we hit it. But no, not usually.”
It worked on Friday, to perfection. With 2.1 seconds left on overtime against Class 4A top-ranked Warren Central, Carmel sophomore Luke Heady launched a 65-foot pass to Baron at the top of the key. Baron turned and found a wide-open Sterling Brown on the right wing.
Brown let the 3-pointer fly, finding nothing but net. Final: Carmel 70, Warren Central 68 in overtime.
“Basically, it’s a football pass,” Brown said. “We’re in the bonus and just trying to make something happen. Luke made a great pass and P.J. made a great catch and read it well. I got a clean look off of it.”
It appeared that Warren Central (18-2 overall, 5-1 Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference) might escape with win – and the outright MIC title – after trailing almost the entire night. The Warriors took their first lead in overtime after battling back from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit with leading scorer Mack Smith on the bench with five fouls.
After Baron tied the score 67-67 on a pass from Brown with 58 seconds left in overtime, Warren Central played for a final shot. After Warren Central coach Criss Beyers called a timeout with 14.7 seconds remaining, David Bell grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled with 2.6 seconds left.
Bell made the first to give Warren Central a 68-67 lead. He missed the second and Carmel’s John Michael Mulloy snared the rebound, calling timeout with 2.1 seconds left.
The Greyhounds (16-4, 5-2) knew the “Key” call was coming. Brown didn’t know he’d be taking the shot … until Baron turned to him and fired the ball his direction.
“I knew I didn’t want to rush the shot, but I knew I had to get it off,” said Brown, who finished with a hard-earned 17 points. “It’s a touch shot. You mess around with that kind of shot all the time, trying to flip it up. I’ve had a little bit of practice with it, but you never know.”
Baron, a 6-4 senior, finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds and John Michael Mulloy, a 6-10 sophomore, added 15 points and 10 rebounds, hitting 11-for-13 from the free-throw line.
Carmel controlled the game throughout, leading by 19 in the third quarter and 54-40 early in the fourth quarter. Smith, a 6-2 senior and Warren Central’s most consistent offensive threat all season, fouled out with six minutes left after scoring just six points.
But the Warriors fought back, led by senior Dean Tate’s three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Ki-ng Tyler’s three-point play with 2:19 left in regulation tied the score, 59-59.
“We could have quit many times and didn’t,” Warren Central coach Criss Beyers said. “I think that’s a testament to our kids and how hard they play. They don’t give up. I think this is the only second time we’ve had a bad first half all season. But we told the guys we can’t have those and do anything in the tournament.”
Tate led Warren Central with 20 points off the bench. Trequan Spivey added 13 points and Allante Harper had 12.
The Warriors had a shot to win it at the end of regulation but Spivey’s 15-foot jumper came after the buzzer.
On a night when it felt like a sectional game, the Greyhounds looked capable of a tournament run. Maybe the “Key” will unlock a little more magic.
“We kind of throw it up there in a crowd and Luke made a good pass,” Carmel coach Scott Heady said. “P.J. is supposed to look and see if anybody is open when he catches it and he made a great pass. They executed that as well as we ever have.”
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.
CARMEL 70, WARREN CENTRAL 68
Warren Central 8 17 13 21 9 — 68
Carmel 20 19 11 9 11 — 70
Warren Central (18-2, 5-1) – Harper 5 0-0 12, Spivey 3 6-6 13, Bell 2 1-2 6, Smith 1 4-4 6, Minor 2 0-0 4, Tate 6 3-4 20, Tyler 2 3-5 7. Totals: 21 17-21 68.
Carmel (16-4, 5-2) – Jenkins 1 0-0 2, Brown 6 2-4 17, Heady 2 2-2 7, Baron 7 3-4 17, Mulloy 2 11-13 15, Falender 2 1-2 6, Gill 1 0-0 2, Beery 2 0-0 4. Totals: 23 19-25 70.
3-point goals: Warren Central 9 (Tate 5, Harper 2, Spivey, Bell), Carmel 5 (Brown 3, Heady, Falender).