By Anthony Mock
Girls’ Class 4A No. 1 Ben Davis hosted its own holiday tournament over the weekend and won both games handily. The Giants dispatched of Bloomington South, who entered the game at 8-1 on the year, 70-37. Ben Davis then turned its attention to 4A No. 10 Plainfield, an undefeated team coming off of a 69-51 win over 3A No. 3 Vincennes Lincoln (11-1). The Giants mauled the Quakers, 94-43, and improved to 14-0 on the season.
Bloomington South couldn’t reach double figures in each of the first two quarters, resulting in a 35-15 halftime deficit. The Panthers managed only eight field goals in the entire game, while Ben Davis hit 27. Senior Alex Bentley led all scores with 22 points, followed by sophomore Bria Goss with 14.
In the championship game, the Giants came out on fire and put up 31 in the first quarter while holding the normally potent Quaker offense to just 10. Ben Davis built a 49-22 halftime lead, then really put it away in the third quarter, outscoring Plainfield 29-13.
Bentley was again the game’s leading scorer with 19, one of four Giants in double-figures. Goss added 15 while senior sister DeArria Goss scored 12 and Jordan Huber 13.
Thursday night, Ben Davis – No. 6 in the MaxPreps National Rankings – went on the road and secured an 89-27 win over Cathedral (3-10). The Giants, led by DeArria Goss with 14, had five players in double figures, all the while playing stifling defense.
The Irish scored in single figures each of the last three quarters and, other than star Adrienne Sahm’s 18-point performance, none of the players scored more than three points in the game. Even with a 46-16 halftime lead, the Giant bench still dominated the second half.
“It’s probably the deepest team I’ve ever coached,” Ben Davis head coach Stan Benge said. “Even when we put in the second team, they play well together because they were all here last year.”
That is saying something coming from a man who has coached in the same place for each of the 23 previous seasons. During his tenure, Benge has averaged approximately 20 wins and just over five losses per season and has seen his share of good teams pass through his gym. This year’s squad has the potential to run through its entire schedule without a blemish, though the goal, according to Benge, is never about going undefeated, only winning the last game of the season. The Giants will be difficult to stop on their trek to the top, not only because of the talent on the team, but the experience.
Benge is in a rare situation, one that most high school coaches only come close to and all would relish. The Giants were 24-1 last year until they fell to Carmel in the regional final.
Every player in the Ben Davis rotation is back this year, which helped to get them voted into the top spot in pre-season. It has been their aggressive style of defense and their development on offense that has kept them there.
“Our defense has been tough from the beginning, but we’re just now starting to get better offensively,” Benge said. “For the first several games, our defense was creating our offense. The girls are really starting to get on the same page and we’re passing a lot better, but there’s still work to be done. We play in the toughest conference in the state and have some really big tests coming up.”
The road will be long and rocky, and it is possible that the Giants will trip up before the postseason. Ben Davis still has to host Warren Central (9-4) and Avon (7-5), as well as making trips to Decatur Central (10-4), Center Grove (7-4) and 4A No. 8 Carmel (10-2).
Things look promising for the Giants. Ben Davis has beaten each of its opponents by an average of almost 33 points per game, and with four seniors on the roster and only two in the starting line-up, they still have plenty of room to develop.
The Giants will host North Central (6-6) on Saturday.
Brownsburg topples University
Brownsburg is off to a sluggish start, but secured a confidence-boosting win over Class A No. 3 University on Saturday. Despite the school being much smaller than Brownsburg, it was a good victory for a young team that has lost some close games through the first half of the season.
Ryne Carr led the visiting Bulldogs by nailing a trio of 3-pointers and posting 15 points, two ahead of teammate Lindsey Dall. Bria Sneed put the rest of the Trailblazers on her shoulders, tallying 21 points, five steals, and five assists, but University fell short 53-50.
University has now lost three of its last six games, two of which were against teams from Kentucky. The Trailblazers started the season 9-0, allowing an average of just 29.7 points per game during that stretch. Recently, University’s defense has lapsed slightly, but the Trailblazers rallied with a 64-53 win on Tuesday against Scecina.
Brownsburg, meanwhile, is trying to piece together the remains of a season that began with six losses in seven games. On a team with only one senior and two juniors, though, each game is an experience that will better prepare the Bulldogs come tournament time.
Brownsburg (3-9) will be in action at Lafayette Jefferson (10-3) on Saturday, while University (12-3) will try its hand against Covenant Christian (7-4) on January 13.
Boys Basketball: Zionsville equals last year’s win total
Zionsville improved to 8-1 with wins against Kankakee Valley and 1A No. 6 Lafayette Central Catholic, both of whom beat the Eagles last season. It has been an impressive turnaround for Zionsville, who went 8-13 last year.
The Eagles have improved in dramatic fashion on offense, averaging about 14 points per game more than they scored last year while allowing opponents about six points less. The rejuvenation is due in large part to the development of younger players.
“It’s the dedication that our kids have had in the off-season and during practice that has allowed us to hit our stride,” head coach Shaun Busick said. “Their chemistry has really improved and on the floor, and that’s been the big difference.”
For the past couple of years, Busick has been trying to compete in the 4A Hoosier Crossroads Conference with primarily underclassmen. The Eagles went 17-25 in Busick’s first two years, but now that his players have bulked-up, gained some valuable on-court experience and gelled as a team, the Eagles are reaping the rewards of their dedication.
“One of our best assets has been our teamwork,” Busick said. “I generally try to think about (the Eagles) from the perspective of an opposing coach, and a big positive for us is that no one has been able to stop us by keying-in on one guy. We’re playing good team defense, we’re passing a lot better, and we’ve got several (players) who score, and that makes it difficult to stop us.”
Zionsville’s even distribution with the basketball is evident in games, but on paper it is even more obvious that each member of the primarily seven-man rotation has certain specialties.
Sophomore standout Demetrius Lawson leads the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game while contributing about three rebounds a contest. Junior point guard Jack Isenbarger is second in scoring with 12.6 points per game, but also leads the team in assists at over four per game.
Fellow juniors Chris Welker and Chris Roberts are also averaging double-figures this season. Welker is putting up 12.3 points per contest, while shooting nearly 95 percent from the free-throw line and leading the team in rebounds with eight per game. Roberts is averaging 10.3 points and shooting 50 percent from behind the 3-point line.
Lone senior David Smith is the most experienced of the group and shows versatility on both ends of the floor, averaging 7.4 points and five rebounds a contest while being a defensive stopper. Add to that back-up point guard Chad Roberts’ four assists a game and forward Blake Lueders’ six points and four rebounds per contest, and the Eagles have a good shot at finishing atop their conference.
Before that can happen, though, Busick says that his team while have to continue to get better and learn to deal with the recognition that comes from such a good early-season record.
“We don’t really talk about wins or losses,” Busick said. “We talk about our own day-to-day improvement. We want to be the team that comes out and executes every play and plays well in every situation.”
Zionsville, whose only loss this season was by four to defending 4A champion Brownsburg, will get another big test as they host Lafayette Jefferson on Friday.
New-look Triton still producing wins
Defending 1A champion Triton had some potential holes coming into this season, having lost most of their height from last year’s 1A championship squad. Head coach Jason Groves knew that he was going to have to make some adjustments to his team’s style of play, the only question being how his team would responded to the changes.
Last year, Triton was a big, lumbering team that won with defense. In order to compete with the shorter, quicker bunch that they had this season, though, they would need to spread the ball around more and speed up the offense.
Through eight games, the response to the change has been emphatically positive. The Trojans have beaten all of their opponents, six of which have been bigger schools. The closest game that Triton has played this year was a 66-60 win at 3A Culver Academy on Jan. 2. Other than that, all of their wins have been by 11-32 points.
“Our offensive production has been a lot better this year,” said Groves, whose team is averaging nearly 70 points a game. “We’re not quite as good on defense and we’re going to have to simply outscore some teams, but I think that we’re equipped to do that.”
Certainly, scoring has not been a problem for the Trojans. Even knowing that his team could score, though, Groves is still pleased with the way things have gone.
“They’ve have some really good leaders the past couple of years and I think that (the current players) have learned a lot from them. I thought that we would have a pretty good team if everyone did their job, but when you lose 80 percent of your scoring, you don’t necessarily expect to start 8-0.”
A big reason for Triton’s success has been that last year’s players have stepped up to fill the holes created by the loss of eight seniors.
Senior Colton Keel has been doing everything for the Trojans, leading the team in scoring (17.6 per game) and rebounds (7.6), while contributing 29 assists (3.6 per game) and playing stout defense.
Sophomore guard Gryffyn Carpenter, the team’s best shooter last year, has upped his point totals from 3.5 a game as a freshman to 16.6 this season while contributing 5.5 rebounds per game. Senior Joel Meister is putting up 15.3 points per contest. Point guard Ben Montalbano leads the team in assists with 6.1 per game and runs the court with efficiency and precision. Combined with a deep bench, Triton has the players to once again win its conference and go deep into the postseason.
The Trojans will have their first chance to establish a conference win on Saturday, as they host John Glenn.