Indian Creek’s boys basketball team had to overcome shooting struggles, an injury and illness in Tuesday’s Class 3A sectional opener.
The Braves almost did all of that, but upstart Northwest wouldn’t let them complete the task.
The Space Pioneers, who entered the game with a 6-15 record, built a 15-point third-quarter lead. The Braves, who entered 16-7, whittled it down to four on three occasions but couldn’t get closer as Northwest held on for a 65-58 victory at tournament-host Beech Grove.
The Space Pioneers will face seventh-ranked Danville in Friday’s semifinal matchup at 6 p.m. Indian Creek, which won 16 games each of the past two seasons, finished 16-8.
Indian Creek lost senior starting post player Gynson Robley, who landed hard on his lower back midway through the second quarter while driving for a layup. Robley, who had also suffered from a shoulder injury late in the regular season, left the game and never returned.
The Braves led 19-18 after Tim Abel came in for Robley and hit two free throws. But Northwest controlled the game’s next eight minutes. The Space Pioneers outscored the Braves 10-3 to close out the first half, then started the second half on a 14-5 run to build a 42-27 lead with 3:53 remaining in the third quarter.
Northwest post players Richard Berry and Trayshun Barron were instrumental during that stretch. Barron ended with 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, while Berry added 15 points and nine boards.
Meanwhile, Space Pioneers point guard Dontez Lewis used his quickness to routinely beat Braves defenders and score a team-high 18 points.
Indian Creek coach Derek Perry and Northwest coach Steve Hall acknowledged that Robley’s absence opened up the lane for the Space Pioneers.
“They attacked the middle, and on film, they didn’t really do that on film,” Perry said. “But as poorly as we played, we still had a shot. We were down four with the ball, and we turned it over twice in a row.”
The Braves recovered quickly from the 42-27 deficit, going on a 13-2 run to trim the deficit to 44-40 with 6:58 remaining. Northwest responded by building the lead back to 10 on a couple of occasions.
Indian Creek’s Jarrett Rozzi hit a 3-pointer with 39 seconds to play to cut the lead to 62-58, then Berry missed two free throws with 31.4 seconds left. The Braves attempted a couple of 3-pointers on their next possession but missed both, and Berry then hit 3 of 4 free throws to close out the win.
“I was most pleased about us hitting our free throws,” Hall said of the Space Pioneers, who hit 13 of 21 overall. “That’s been our Achilles’ heel this season. Wendell DeMyers (10 points) also did some good game managing down the stretch.”
The Braves’ Jared DeHart led everyone with 25 points, despite becoming ill in the locker room at halftime and missing the first couple of minutes in the second half. His return helped Indian Creek rally, as he shook off the illness to score 12 second-half points.
Bryce Hogue added 12 points and Abel scored 10 for the Braves. Robley had four points and four rebounds when he left the game.
“We had chances, but we didn’t capitalize when we needed to,” Perry said. “These seniors have won a lot of games in the last four years, and this (season) will be something to build on.
“We’ll return three of our leading scorers (sophomore DeHart, junior Hogue and junior Abel).”