By Bryan Gaskins
Tribune sports editor
MARION — Carmel’s boys basketball team just needs the slightest crack to surge into control of a game, which it showed during its run to the Class 4A state championship last season.
Carmel showed it again in a 60-47 victory over Kokomo in a Marion Regional semifinal game Saturday afternoon at Bill Green Arena.
The No. 1-ranked Greyhounds held a 31-29 lead deep in the third quarter when they pounced on a chance to take control. They ended the quarter on a 5-0 run, then opened the fourth quarter with a three-point play to go up 10.
The No. 8 Kats chased the rest of the way, trailing by just five with 1:00 to play, but the Greyhounds put the win away at the free throw line.
“Obviously, it’s extremely disappointing because we were good enough to beat them, but a lot of teams are good enough to beat them and then Carmel gets it done. They are a very good team and obviously they played very well [Saturday] because they beat a good team, I felt,” Kokomo coach Brian McCauley said.
Carmel had a terrific shooting performance in beating Kokomo in a regional semifinal for the second straight season. The Greyhounds finished 18 of 30 (60 percent) from the field overall, 5 of 10 from 3-point range and 19 of 22 (86.4 percent) from the free-throw line. They hit 16 of 19 charity attempts in the final quarter.
“When you’re trying to come from behind on Carmel, it’s just tough to do,” McCauley said.
Carmel dominated the opening quarter, ripping off a 13-0 run en route to an 18-10 lead at the close of the quarter. The Greyhounds hit 7 of 9 shots from the field — 3 of 3 from 3-land.
Kokomo dominated the second quarter, using a 9-0 run to take its only lead of the game, 21-20 at 2:00. Following a Carmel turnover at 1:34, Kokomo attempted to play for the final shot of the half, but the Kats committed a turnover at :21.7. The Greyhounds’ Grant Goodman scored a post bucket at :07 to give Carmel a 22-21 halftime lead.
“I thought we did a good job attacking their zone early and got them out of their zone. Then they went man to man and I thought we rushed some things and we just didn’t take care of the ball, maybe got a little anxious,” Carmel coach Scott Heady said. “I thought we were lucky to have a one-point lead at half because they were playing well and hitting shots. But I thought in the second half we settled down.”
Kokomo’s hopes took a big hit in the opening minute of the second half when senior swingman LaBradford Sebree picked up his third and fourth fouls and took a seat on the bench.
“I think the fourth one was a frustration foul, which is easy to do,” McCauley said. “I don’t know if LaBradford has ever been in foul trouble [like that]. He is a smart player, one of the best players to ever play for Kokomo in my opinion. ... Him picking up that fourth obviously didn’t help us, but even in the short minutes he did get, he was very effective.”
Carmel owned 26-25 and 28-27 leads before it gained separation late in the third quarter. First, Michael Volovic hit a 3-pointer for a 31-27 lead at 3:52. After Kokomo answered with a bucket, Zach McRoberts hit a jumper for a 33-29 lead and James Crowley followed with a steal and layup and was fouled. Crowley hit the free throw for a 36-29 lead.
After Kokomo missed a shot at the end of the third quarter and another shot to open the final quarter, Crowley scored on a drive to the basket, was fouled and hit the free throw for a 39-29 lead.
The Kats followed with a 7-2 run to draw within 41-36 at 5:15, but the Kats also missed a layup during that run. The Greyhounds followed with a 4-0 run to go up 45-36 at 4:15. The Kats closed to within six on three occasions (45-39, 47-41, 49-43) and then to within five (52-47) with 1:02 left, but the Greyhounds slammed the door shut at the free throw line.
“We hit our free throws down the stretch. It’s something we’ve done all year,” Heady said. “You get a lead in the fourth quarter and we feel like we can spread the floor and get to the free throw line and hit free throws.”
Crowley scored a game-high 18 points and Michael Volovic followed with 16. Goodman offered a spark off the bench with eight points and seven rebounds. Heady noted Goodman played a bigger role with starter James Volovic slowed by an ankle injury.
Heady pointed to the Greyhounds’ defense on Kokomo ringleaders Tayler Persons (13 points) and Sebree (10) as a key to the win. They came in averaging a combined 33 points.
Persons also had five assists and three steals against no turnovers. Also for the Kats, Hakim Burnett added 11 points, Erik Bowen had six points and Kylee Beheler had five rebounds and three steals.
Kokomo finished its season with a 22-3 record which included the North Central Conference title and a third straight sectional title. Seniors Sebree, Beheler, Burnett, Montanez Fowler, Jesse Broomfield and Dylan Orbaugh closed their Red and Blue careers with the loss.
“I’m proud of our guys — they’re fighters and they have a lot of will to win. It’s a group I’d want to coach forever,” McCauley said.
• New Haven beat Fort Wayne Northrop 65-60 in the opening semifinal. Steve McElvene, a 6-foot-11 junior, had 24 points, 16 rebounds and eight blocked shots for New Haven and Notre Dame recruit V.J. Beachem added 19 points and eight boards. Purdue recruit Bryson Scott led Northrop with 27 points and 17 rebounds.
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