Let’s face it, yesterday was no fun. We had already learned that the Boys Basketball team would not be able to complete it’s special season and today we found out that our Spring Teams will not have the chance to chase championships this year as well.
Over the course of the next month, the Marian Athletic Department has decided that we will provide the news that would have happened had we not encountered COVID-19.
Full Disclosure – WE ARE BIASED
Today we tell the story of Robb Berger’s Marian Knights capturing the school’s first Basketball State Title over defending 3A Champion Silver Creek.
After handing Hanover Central just their third loss of the season in the morning session of the Regional at Washington High School by the score of 61-48, Marian set their sights on their first Regional Championship since Demetrius Jackson and Devin Cannady shared a backcourt together.
Standing in their way was Hammond, who at 21-4, posed a tremendous threat. After trailing at the half 30-27, the Marian Defense rose to the occasion, holding the Wildcats to just 19 points in the second half. It was the play of Ky’Rell Franklin and Kaleo Kakalia that sparked the Knights. On the first play of the half, Franklin deflected a Hammond pass into the hands of Kakalia. Kaleo immediately threw a pass ahead to Franklin who delivered a monstrous dunk to cut the deficit to one. On the very next play, it was Franklin who got the steal and threw it ahead to Kakalia who also got the crowd on its feet with an emphatic slam to take the lead. The Offense also came alive, feeding off the suffocating defense as the Knights won going away, 68-49.
Leading the way for the Knights was NIC MVP Jerry Bracey, scoring 39 points in the two games. Fellow Senior, Michael Baughman came alive in the morning session, hitting 5-7 from the 3-point line for 15 points and it was Deaglan Sullivan who found his range from the outside in the evening session hitting all four of his 3-point attempts, scoring 16.
Advancing to its first Semi-State since the 2011-12 season, Marian would face a familiar foe. Not only did the Knights take on Norwell in the Thomas Moorman Memorial tournament this season, but it was Norwell who ended the Marian dream of playing for a State Title eight years ago. Despite beating Norwell 64-43 the day after New Year’s, Robb Berger knew this one would not be as easy. And he was right!
Playing at Northside Gym in Elkhart, Marian started fast leading Norwell 15-7 after the 1st Quarter. Junior Mitchell Menting seemed to take well to the country’s 8th largest high school gym as he hit his first three shots of the game (two of them 3’s) to lead Marian with eight points. The second quarter would belong to the other Knights as Norwell outscored Marian 17-8. For the second straight game, Marian trailed at the half, this time it was 24-23. Menting was still providing the scoring punch with 12 at the half, but the rest of the Knights could not find their shooting touch.
After a back and forth 3rd quarter, Marian trailed going into the 4th by just two points, 35-33. That is when Kaleo Kakalia came alive! In foul trouble for a good portion of the game, the 6’4 Sophomore scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter for Marian, sparking a 7-2 scoring run all by himself to reclaim the lead 40-37 with 6:01 to go in the game. After a timeout by Norwell, they were able to hit a 3-pointer to tie the game, but that is when Marian turned it on. Back to back 3-pointers, first by Baughman, then by Sullivan put Norwell on its heels. But it was the 3-point play the old fashion way by Freshman Dareon Thornton that broke the other Knights’ backs. After Thornton hit the free-throw to give Marian its largest lead at 49-40, Coach Berger’s squad and the packed Marian Student Section knew they were heading to Indy! As the final horn blew, Marian had outscored Norwell 27-15 in the final eight minutes to win 60-50. Menting, who kept Marian in the game in the first half led the Knights with 16. Jerry Bracey added 12 and Kakalia contributed ten.
Now it was a match-up between the top two teams in 3A. The Marian Knights versus the Silver Creek Dragons. Both of these teams had not lost since February 1st. Riding a 14-game winning streak, the Knights entered the game at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse with a 24-4 record. Silver Creek had won 12 straight games and stood at 28-2.
The 1st Quarter showed nerves from both sides as missed shots and turnovers plagued the first eight minutes. All tied going into the 2nd Quarter at 8-8, the next eight minutes showcased an amazing display of offense. Having played in his first Varsity game last week in the Semi-State, Richard Brooks did not score against Norwell. However, he had a huge impact in the State Title game. Brooks hit all four of his shots in the second quarter, scoring 10 points in eight minutes to give Marian a 26-22 lead at the half. For most of the 3rd, both teams traded baskets and with two minutes to go in the quarter, Marian still led 40-36. That is when Silver Creek, who averaged over 74 points per game, came alive. In 90 seconds, the Dragons had went on a 9-0 run to claim a 45-40 lead and after an offensive foul on Jerry Bracey, his 3rd, it was Silver Creek ball with under half a minute left. Coach Berger knew it was too risky to play Bracey with three fouls so he substituted Davion Taylor to provide ball pressure. The move worked perfectly. Taylor pressured the Dragon point guard and was able to get a steal. Davion took the ball all the way to the hoop where he scored and was fouled as the buzzer sounded. He hit the free throw to cut the Silver Creek lead to just two points going into the final quarter.
To begin the fourth, it was Senior sharpshooter Michael Baughman who gave the Knights the lead at 46-45. After that, there would be TWELVE more lead changes in the next seven minutes of the game and with 1:13 left in the game, Marian held on to a 1-point lead at 61-60 after a Dareon Thornton 15-foot jump shot. Time Out Silver Creek. Coming out of the stop in play, Silver Creek would once again claim the lead 62-61 with 36 seconds left. After a missed shot, Silver Creek gathered the rebound and forced Marian to foul with 12 seconds on the clock.
The Dragons hit both free throws and Coach Berger called a timeout to draw up the play. Bracey raced down the court and drove the right side skipping the pass to Baughman on the left wing, but he was quickly covered. Baughman took one dribble to the middle and found Deaglan Sullivan on the right wing. Sullivan launched a high arching shot that found nothing but net as the clock expired! We were heading to OVERTIME with the score tied at 64.
As both teams headed back to the floor for four more minutes, the crowd at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse rose to its feet to show appreciation for two terrific teams. The Knights knew it was time to impose their will and knew they would win on what brought them this far…. DEFENSE.
Bracey would get the scoring started in the extra session with a 12-foot pull-up jumper. Silver Creek would answer to tie the game at 66. After several defensive stops by both teams, it was Mitchell Menting who would break the drought when he grabbed an offensive rebound and lay-up to give Marian a 68-66 lead with 1:01 left in the game. A 3-pointer by Silver Creek gave the Dragons a 69-68 lead with 44 seconds left in the overtime period. On Marian’s next possession, Sullivan drove down the middle and made a beautiful pass to Bracey on the baseline, who converted an acrobatic reverse lay-up while getting fouled to put the Knights back in front. After Jerry sunk the free throw, Marian led 71-69 with 21 seconds left.
After a Silver Creek timeout, the Knights needed just one stop to win the State Championship and they got it when Ky’Rell Franklin came out of nowhere and blocked a lay-up attempt by the Dragons as time expired!
Bracey lead Marian with 15 points, while Sullivan and Brooks added 12 a piece.
Menting and Kakalia scored 8 a piece, while Baughman contributed 7.
Franklin scored 4, Taylor contributed 3 and Thornton added 2