Chasing its first boys basketball sectional title in 14 years, Indian Creek came up just short against Tri-West on Saturday night.
Trailing the Braves by one point midway through the fourth quarter, Tri-West closed the game with a 19-8 run to win the Class 3A Beech Grove sectional championship game, 58-48.
After senior Brett DeHart scored in the lane to put Indian Creek up 40-39, Nick Sprecher answered immediately, getting fouled while scoring at the rim. His free throw put Tri-West up, 42-40.
A Cameron Smith free throw at the 4:39 mark trimmed the lead to 42-41.
From there, it was all about the Tri-West defense and Trevor Waite.
The Bruins (15-7) held Indian Creek without a field goal for nearly five minutes while Waite scored 15 of the next 16 Bruin points.
First, the junior guard sliced through the Braves defense to score at the rim on consecutive possessions. Then, with Indian Creek forced to foul, he knocked down 11 of 12 free throws over the final 1:58 to put the game away.
Despite the loss, Indian Creek coach Derek Perry was happy with how the Braves fought.
“I was proud of their effort,” Perry said. “They brought the intensity. We just came up short. We withstood their early surge. We just couldn’t withstand their second one.”
The game in some ways mirrored the Braves’ season.
After losing six of their first seven contests, Perry’s young squad found its footing in January, eventually winning eight of 10 going into Saturday’s game.
Perry said that resilience made this a memorable season.
“These kids all year have clawed back. They went from 1-6 to winning seven straight in the conference. They captured a share of the conference championship, which we hadn’t done for six years. And it had been 14 years since we had even made it to a sectional championship game,” Perry said.
“The hand we were dealt early on, and how we finished the season, it was pretty special.”
After trailing by as many as eight points in the first half, Indian Creek (11-11) battled back in the third quarter.
Sophomore Gynson Robley missed a long 3-pointer with 2:30 remaining in the period. But DeHart grabbed the rebound in traffic and found Robley cutting to the basket, where he laid the ball in as he was fouled. Robley’s free throw put the Braves up, 32-31.
Indian Creek stretched the lead to three points twice, but could never make it more than a one-possession game.
Sophomore Cameron Smith led the Braves with 15 points. Senior Austin Smith, who labored with foul trouble all night and fouled out late, added 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Indian Creek hit 17 of 38 field goals (.447), but hurt itself by missing seven of 18 free throws and turning the ball over 13 times.
Brant Gadberry had a game-high 18 points for the Bruins. Waite finished with 17. The Bruins did not shoot well, hitting just 19 of 51 shots (.373), but grabbed 35 rebounds to only 21 for the Braves.
Tri-West will play Guerin Catholic in Saturday’s Greencastle Regional.