Indian Creek Holds Off John Marshall
By SHAWN RINE
Ohio Sports Editor
OK, raise your hand if you expected Indian Creek to be playing in Saturday night’s Wheeling Hospital OVAC Class AAAA Boys’ basketball championship on the campus of Ohio University-Eastern.
Michael Smith and the rest of his Redskins teammates heard the doubters. So they did the only thing they could — they proved they belonged on the court.
Jim Wood scored 18 points and Smith tacked on 13 as the Redskins (15-5) held John Marshall (11-7) to 14 points in the second half on their way to a 40-35 victory and an improbable conference crown.
The boys joined their female counterparts, who won the 4-A girls title last Saturday, ironically enough against John Marshall.
”First off, I think we should get a little more respect now, but I guess we need to gain the respect,” Smith said. ”Earlier in the season everyone thought we were just the same old Indian Creek.
”We work pretty hard — we practice even on Sundays.”
The fruits of that labor were never more visible than a third quarter in which Indian Creek limited John Marshall to two points, turning a 21-18 halftime deficit into a 28-23 lead.
”It is very special,” Redskins coach Joe Dunlevy said. ”Third quarter, they struggled to get a shot off.
”There were times they worked the ball 45, 50 seconds just to get a shot — not necessarily a good shot — and that’s what we preach at Indian Creek. I think that’s what you’re successful with, especially at tournament time.”
The stifling Redskins defense limited the Monarchs to 29-percent shooting overall and 16 percent from 3-point range. Indian Creek also made life difficult in the post for John Marshall’s twin towers, 6-foot-6 posts Kenny Shepherd and Danny McClelland.
Normally, a team elects to take away one option or another. The Redskins took away everything.
”Sometimes when teams are aggressive with us, we’re still young and we back away from that,” John Marshall coach Bill Storm said. ”It’s been this way all year — we aren’t capable of putting four quarters together — but when we do we’re awfully good.
”I don’t know whether we’ve scored two in a quarter, but we’ve had our stretches where we disappear.”
The tide seemed to turn when the Monarchs’ Travis Whitfield picked up his third foul on a charge at 1:27 of the second quarter. Storm, who credits Whitfield’s performance in the semifinal victory against Wheeling Park as being the key to his team’s advancing, said that was the game’s biggest blow.
”I thought the key to the game was when Travis Whitfield picked up his third foul — that was it right there,” Storm said. ”He makes us go, he’s scrappy. He gets every loose ball and every rebound, and he penetrates and sets the table for our guys.”
The biggest part of that was probably the penetration. John Marshall’s offense went south from that point, and Indian Creek took advantage.
The Redskins took their first lead of the second half on back-to-back Wood baskets, the second one being accompanied by a subsequent free throw that made it 23-21.
”I think the biggest thing, like Coach ‘D’ said, was we did a pretty good job defensively,” Wood said. ”They are really hard to guard because (they like to) penetrate and kick it out for the 3.
”They have a lot of good shooters, but the main thing was get around them and fight in the post.”
But those great shooters never found their stroke.
Andrew Montes, arguably the team’s most explosive scorer missed eight of his 10 shots, and was 1 of 9 after opening the game with a 3 from the left corner on the team’s first possession.
”We came out early and hit those couple,” Storm said. ”When Andrew Montes hits his first couple he’s usually on fire. It didn’t happen (Saturday).”
Indian Creek led by five after three quarters and by as many as seven after Wood converted to begin the fourth. But the Monarchs answered with a 7-0 run that included Kylen Whipp’s lone basket, a Whitfield 3 at the 6-minute mark that forced a Dunlevy timeout and a pair of McClelland free throws that knotted it at 30-30 with 3:40 to go.
”We had a bunch of kids step up in different situations (Saturday night),” Dunlevy said.
And the next guy was Dunlevy’s son, Daniel, who scored on a nifty mid-range bank shot for his only bucket and a 32-30 lead. It was followed by a steal at mid-court and a layup by the ultra-confident Smith.
Smith said he expected a tough matchup and some gritty defense from the Monarchs.
”I knew they were going to double-team me because in my head none of them can guard me — at all,” Smith said.
Smith hit a pair of free throws at 42.8 as Whitfield fouled out, and Wood sandwiched four free throws — he was 10 of 11 for the game — around a Jeremy Hays 3 for the final margin.
”It’s very emotional. We were struggling around Christmas time,” Coach Dunlevy said. ”We played Dec. 21 against Bellaire, and I talked to (OVAC Executive Secretary) Tom (Rataiczak) about who he was going to pair us up with in the consolations because we weren’t going to make the tournament.
“But something happened with these kids where they started believing in themselves. Now, all the close games somebody is stepping up.”
OVAC CLASS 4A Championship
Indian Creek 40, John Marshall 35
J — Overholt 0-0 0-1 0; Melko 0-2 2-2 2; Defibaugh 0-7 2-3 2; Whitfield 2-3 1-2 6; Shepherd 4-8 0-1 8; Hays 1-5 0-0 3; Ju.Eikleberry 1-1 0-0 2; Montes 2-10 0-0 5; Whipp 1-2 0-0 2; McClelland 1-3 3-4 5. Totals: 12-41 8-13 35.
I — Dunlevy 1-1 0-0 2; DeSantis 0-0 0-0 0; Smith 4-14 5-6 13; Viltro 0-6 2-4 2; Bowers 0-0 0-0 0; Figel 1-5 0-0 2; Starr 0-0 0-0 0; Wood 4-14 10-11 18. Totals: 11-41 17-21 40.
3-Point Goals: Whitfield, Hays, Montes; Roberts.
John Marshall 11 10 2 12 — 35
Indian Creek 10 8 10 12 — 40