The surroundings weren’t overwhelming for Indian Creek in its first regional appearance in 23 years.
Rather, the opponent simply had too much big-game seasoning.
As superbly as the Braves performed at times during Saturday afternoon’s Class 3A regional at Lebanon, defending state champion Beech Grove did what needed to be done in pulling away for a 65-56 victory.
All five of the Hornets’ starters are seniors, as are the three primary backups. That stands in complete contrast to Indian Creek, a roster made up almost entirely of underclassmen, the exception being starting point guard Aiden Pemberton.
“You know, I think we ran some different stuff to cause them a little confusion,” said Braves coach Drew Glentzer, whose squad was leading, 28-18, with 5:12 remaining in the second quarter before the Hornets (17-6) went on a 13-4 scoring run to pull within a point at the half.
“Unfortunately, that can’t last a game against a team with eight seniors. State champions. But really, all game long our defense was pretty good.”
Beech Grove has eliminated Indian Creek from postseason action five of the last seven seasons, with each of the previous games coming at the sectional level.
Initially, it appeared both teams were going out of their way to keep the gymnasium scoreboards as busy as possible.
By the 5:21 mark of the first stanza, the score was deadlocked at 12-12, the Hornets and Braves a combined 8 of 10 from behind the 3-point stripe in sort of a can-you-top-this flurry of long-range baskets.
Indian Creek held a slim 17-16 advantage late in the first when it went on an 11-2 run punctuated by sophomore guard Adam Crouch’s steal, layup and free throw.
The quickness and shot-making ability of Hornet guards Jeremiah Tate and Jaleel Edwards proved instrumental the back half of the second period to again make the game close.
Beech Grove took the lead for good on Tate’s three-point sequence with 1:31 left in the third, but Indian Creek stayed close, twice trailing by only two points in the fourth quarter. Crouch’s triple cut it to 55-53 at 4:04, but 6-foot-6 Beech Grove wing Cameron Brown answered with a baseline trey to push the margin back to five.
Sophomore backup Bobby Emberton slid inside for a layup at 3:11 to cut it to three; the Hornets closed with a 7-1 scoring run to begin making semistate plans.
Tate led all scorers with 23 points, while Edwards added 16 and Brown 10 off the bench for Beech Grove. Crouch finished with 21 points to lead Indian Creek, followed by soph Landon Sichting’s 13 and 12 from junior wing Trent Volz.
Beech Grove finished 24 of 46 from the field (52.2%), while the Braves cooled off to convert 21 of 52 (40.4%). Indian Creek also labored from the free throw line, making just 4 of 10.
Despite the loss, Pemberton as the Braves’ lone senior was happy to be part of a regional qualifier.
“It had been a while, and that motivated us all year. And then, coming to play Beech Grove … we wanted to get them back bad,” Pemberton said. “It was very back and forth. We started off hot. They started off hot. We went on a little roll, and then they came back.”
Indian Creek finishes the season with a 14-9 record, and plenty of promise for the 2023-24 campaign. Everything that transpired Saturday, good and not so good, is sure to benefit the Braves.
“Obviously, a lot of firsts for this group. Winning the (Western Indiana Conference), winning sectional,” Glentzer said. “There’s no substitute for experience.
“Coming into this game, there was probably some nerves, but they proved to themselves they belonged. Once you prove you belong, now you’ve set a different bar that we haven’t had for a while.”