The Indian Creek boys basketball team started slowly and looked like it might not be successful in its attempt to do something special.
That description fits both the season and Friday night’s game, but in both cases, the result ended up being a significant accomplishment for the Braves.
Following a 63-58 win Friday at Waldron, coach Derek Perry’s Braves (10-10) earned their first Mid-Hoosier Conference championship since 2008.
Sharing the title with Knightstown (both finish league play with 7-2 league records) didn’t seem to diminish the squad’s enthusiasm as they returned to the court a few minutes after the final buzzer to celebrate with their fans.
But as with the shaky start to the season (1-6 after seven games), Friday night could have ended in bitter disappointment.
The Braves were down by 10 points early in the third quarter when Perry called for a full-court press. The move paid immediate dividends. Waldron appeared to struggle with the quicker tempo and the Braves used some turnover-sparked baskets to go on a 15-4 run and take the lead.
The Braves continued the pressure in the fourth quarter, and while the atmosphere in the gym and the intensity of the contest from both sides was befitting a championship decider, Indian Creek was clearly establishing control on the court.
The Braves controlled the game the rest of the way by holding the ball well, hitting free throws and getting some defensive stops.
Perry said the decision to go to the press was both to challenge the Mohawks’ ball-handlers and to wake up his own team.
“I was a little disappointed with the team in the first half,” Perry said. “We had talked about pressure all week and how we needed to challenge them, and we just didn’t do it.
“We finally got a quicker tempo and made it a better game for us.”
The Mohawks (7-11) moved the ball well in the opening half and got better shots than the Braves’ defenders would have preferred, moving out to a 30-24 halftime lead. Indian Creek was working its offense well during the same time span, but a number of shots went astray after dropping halfway down the cylinder.
While shots fell more frequently in the second half, it was mainly because they were coming from inside the lane, as the Braves scored both in transition and by driving the lane from the half-court offense.
Austin Smith was a force on offense for the Braves, scoring 31 points, almost all by driving the paint, which also led to 12 free-throw attempts for the senior forward, who sank 11 of those foul shots. Cameron Smith added 14 on the night.
Perry said even with Class 3A Beech Grove Sectional looming, the conference title is fully appreciated by his squad.
“This is huge for us. It’s a good accomplishment for the team and the school’s first since 2008,” Perrry said. “We keep improving and tonight is a good example of how well we can do if we hang tough and play good defense.
“It’s a young team and we still have a lot to learn, but they are making good progress.”
Indian Creek opens sectional play next Friday against Greencastle.