The teams hadn’t begun pregame warmups, and, already, the 1,000 seats inside Indianapolis Lutheran’s gym were occupied.
Should the phrase “Hoosier Hysteria” ever call for an accompanying photograph, any snapped during Saturday night’s Class A sectional final between the host Saints and Greenwood Christian would do the trick.
With this ear-splitting backdrop, eighth-ranked Lutheran, leading by 16 points late in the third quarter, held off a furious Cougars rally and held on for a 61-57 victory to advance to Saturday’s regional at Martinsville.
GCA, which was ranked fifth and had been riding a 13-game win streak dating back to early January, finishes with a final record of 19-7.
“This is a special group of boys that has worked extremely hard to get to where they’re at,” second-year Greenwood Christian coach Jackson Williams said. “This has been a thing where kids have been working 12 months out of the year on their own and as a team.
“We’ve got a lot of great people who made this possible.”
Pursuit of what would have been GCA’s fourth sectional championship started losing traction the final 4:20 of the second quarter, mostly because of Saints senior guard Durray Smith.
After GCA senior Blake Shewmaker delivered a baseline 3-pointer that cut the Lutheran lead to 22-19, Smith shifted into heat-check mode with three of his five first-half triples.
The Saints led, 33-23, at halftime.
“He just knocked down some open looks … we knew the kid was a really good shooter,” Williams said. “We tried our best to get a hand up on him and make the shot tough, and he just hit a couple of tough shots down the stretch there in the second quarter.
“It just kind of made it tougher on us.”
A rebound basket from Lutheran guard L.J. Ward at 2:27 of the third made it a 47-31 score, but the Cougars weren’t finished.
“There was a timeout, and everybody looked at each other,” Williams said. “We had been there before and come from behind, so everybody said, we can make a push here. Let’s make it happen.
“We knew we had to play together to do it, and I thought the kids did a great job of battling back.”
Sophomore guard Evan McIntire, who finished with a game-high 23 points off the bench for Greenwood Christian, was the primary catalyst.
From the 1:47 mark of the third stanza to 5:08 in the fourth, the Cougars outscored Lutheran, 14-2, with McIntire scoring half the points and junior guard Max Booher five.
The Saints continued to feed the ball to senior post Kameron Patterson, whose points down low continued to keep the Cougars at arm’s length. GCA closed to within four points on five different occasions, but no closer.
The loss marked the final time Greenwood Christian seniors Shewmaker, Ian Reed and Parker Satre take the court together.
Shewmaker, a 6-3 guard, produced 14 points and four rebounds in his final outing.
“It’s just been awesome being part of this team,” Shewmaker said. “I don’t know if there’s a closer team than we were, and it’s so much fun playing with everyone out there.
“I mean, (Lutheran) shot well from outside, but we battled back … just tough.”
Williams couldn’t praise his seniors, all starters, enough for what they’ve meant to a Cougar program that is 36-17 over the last two seasons.
“These guys from a leadership standpoint have meant absolutely everything to us,” Williams said. “From the teammates they are to the basketball players they are, but also the leaders and young men that they are, we couldn’t ask for a better group of boys to have in our first two years here at GCA.”