There was not one single play, or player, to be remembered when someone looks back on the Class 4A state championship team of 2019. There was a steal here, a blocked shot there. A tipped pass that turns into a layup. A back screen that ends up in a wide-open shot.
Those plays mostly came from seniors. Carmel had a ton of them. There was John-Michael Mulloy, who carried off the Trester Mental Attitude award along with a state championship on Saturday. There was Luke Heady. Karsten Windlan. Andrew Owens. Ben Frische.
“Everything we try to embody in Carmel basketball, the senior class gave us this year,” second-year coach Ryan Osborn said. “To finish it like this, as a coach, makes me so happy for them. You want them to experience it and enjoy it.”
Top-ranked Carmel finished it in style with a rugged, physical, dive-on-the-floor 60-55 victory over Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival Ben Davis in front of a crowd of 12,908 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday night.
The Greyhounds (26-1) played with an edge all season after coming so close to tasting a title in 2018. Carmel led Warren Central by four points going into the fourth quarter of last year’s championship game before losing, 54-48.
It had to creep into the Greyhounds’ minds on Saturday night. Ben Davis’ 6-8, 350-pound Dawand Jones, not known for his outside shooting, caught a length-of-the-court pass and buried a turnaround 18-footer at the third-quarter buzzer to cut Carmel’s lead to 40-37.
“We always think four quarters,” Heady said. “There are always ups and downs. We always talk about just ‘sustain and stay level.’”
Carmel had a worthy opponent in Ben Davis (20-8), a vastly improved team from the last meeting, a 49-39 Greyhounds’ win on Jan. 25. The Giants kept rallying, even after falling behind 54-45 with 1:09 left. Jalen Windham, the 6-5 Georgia State recruit, scored on an and-one with 42 seconds left to draw the Giants within four. After two Windlan free throws, Windham found Cameron Maul in the corner for a 3-pointer to make it 56-53 Carmel with 24.9 seconds left.
But after Heady made two free throws, Carmel sealed with a steal.
“It’s like a fairy-tale ending you could say,” Mulloy said. “We’ve been working hard to get to this spot, checking all the boxes. A MIC championship. A sectional championship. We checked the final box here.”
With all of those seniors, it was a freshman who led Carmel in scoring. Pete Suder finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Suder was everywhere, taking a cue from his senior teammates.
“He’s going to be a phenomenal player,” Mulloy said. “I can’t wait to see what he does in the future. He stepped up and did what he needs to do.”
Mulloy added 13 points and six rebounds. Windlan had 11 points and five rebounds and Owens finished with 10 points, including a big 3-pointer with 3:31 left to push Carmel’s lead from one point to 47-43. Ben Davis never got closer than three points the rest of the way.
“You could go down the list in the last few minutes of the seniors who made big plays,” Osborn said.
Windham led Ben Davis with 22 points, including 13-for-14 from the free-throw line. Jones added 16 points and nine rebounds. When the buzzer sounded, Jones could not hold back the tears.
“This tournament run was really special,” Windham said.
It is the fourth state championship in school history for Carmel. Osborn was an assistant on Scott Heady’s staff on the Greyhounds’ title teams in 2012 and ’13. Ben Davis lost for just the second time in five championship appearances. The Giants lost to Jeffersonville in 1993 before winning in 1995, ’96 when coach Don Carlisle was a player and again in 2017.
Ben Davis trailed by as many as nine points in the first half, including a 21-12 deficit after a basket by Suder with 6:56 left in the half. The Giants responded with a 7-0 run with two baskets by Jones sandwiched around a 3-pointer from Kai Hickman-Steinman.
Windham hit six free throws in the final 2:17 of the half to draw Ben Davis within 31-30 at halftime.
The championship has extra meaning for Luke Heady, who now has some bragging rights the kitchen table. He watched five and six years ago as his dad’s teams won titles for Carmel. Now he has one of his own.
“I’m just glad I got a ring,” Heady said. “I don’t have to hear it at the kitchen table every morning. I’m just glad we finally got a ring. Ben Davis was so, so good. They battled us through it all.”
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.
Carmel 60, Ben Davis 55
Carmel 17 14 9 20 — 60
Ben Davis 11 19 7 18 — 55
Carmel — Karsten Windlan 2-6 6-8 11, Peter Suder 7-11 0-1 14, Luke Heady 0-0 7-12 7, Andrew Owens 4-13 0-0 10, John-Michael Mulloy 6-11 1-5 13, Robert Fry 1-2 1-2 3, Ben Frische 0-0 2-2 2. Totals: 20-43 17-30 60.
Ben Davis — Cameron Maul 2-7 0-0 5, Dom Day 0-1 0-0 0, Jalen Windham 4-13 13-14 22, Jeff Clayton 1-2 0-0 2, Dawand Jones 7-12 2-6 16, Ty Nibbs 1-1 0-0 2, Kai Hickman-Steinman 2-3 0-0 5, Jaylen Jennings 1-1 1-1 3, Jamari London 0-0 0-0 0, James Webster 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-40 16-21 55.
3-point shooting: Carmel 3-11 (Owens 2, Windlan), Ben Davis 3-15 (Maul, Windham, Hickman-Steinman). Rebounds: Carmel 33 (Owens 8), Ben Davis 22 (Jones 9). Assists: Carmel 11 (Heady 5), Ben Davis 10 (Maul 3).