Men’s Basketball Continues in State Tournament

The Irish will look to win their second consecutive State title, and the third in school history.


Titus Slaughter

Senior and equipment manager Shaun Marbaugh celebrates with the student section after a made basket on Feb. 21 against Zionsville. The Irish defeated the Eagles 67-55.

On Friday the men’s basketball team began their run to a potential second straight State Championship. After fighting their way through the historically difficult Sectional 10 a year ago, the team battled their way to the final, where they embarrassed Chesterton 65-31. 

This year, the team finished the regular season with a 17-5 record—one game better than they finished last year—while playing a grueling schedule that included games against national powerhouses. They headed into the State Tournament ranked sixth in the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association poll, trailing only Ben Davis, Penn, Hammond Central, Kokomo and Center Grove. 

But, according to Head Coach Mr. Jason Delaney, none of it matters anymore, now that the State Tournament has begun. He said, “Records are out, rankings are out, all of that stuff is out. It’s about who executes best in the 32 minutes. 

The team drew a bye for the first round of the Sectional, which Delaney described as “the best draw you could probably hope for”. They were set to face the winner of Lawrence Central and Warren Central, a game that was played on Feb. 28. Warren Central escaped with a 61-58 victory in a game that was decided in overtime by a last-second three-pointer from Warriors senior Devaon Holman. 

The team faced Warren Central on March 3, in a rematch of a game played early in the season. The teams faced off on Dec. 27, and the Irish pulled out a 75-71 victory. Senior and Michigan State commit Xavier Booker did not play in that game due to illness, so senior and Purdue football commit did the bulk of the scoring, dropping 27 points. The absence of Booker was just one of a few factors that led to, in Delaney’s opinion, a poor performance in that game. He said, “(We had) way too many turnovers and didn’t shoot well. We gave up way too many points—way above our average.”

The Sectional game on March 3 saw the team struggle with some of the same issues. They took a six point lead going into the halftime break, but when the second half began, Warren Central began to send more pressure. They initiated a full-court press, forcing the Irish ball handlers to make cross-court passes that led to turnovers. The team ended the game with 20 turnovers and shot just 20% from beyond the three point line. Warren Central made a fourth quarter comeback, but it proved to be too little too late. The Irish pulled off a 64-61 victory, as Booker scored 22. Senior Kamari Slaughter added 14. 

After the nail-biter on Friday night, the team turned around to play in the Sectional Championship on Saturday, this time against Crispus Attucks in a rematch of this year’s City Championship. The two teams met for the City title on Jan. 23, and a shorthanded Irish team that was missing senior Jake Davis and sophomore Lebron Gough was heavily favored. Crispus Attucks came out strong, however, and pulled off the upset, winning 61-51. They were led by sophomore Dezmon Briscoe and junior Ron Rutland III, who scored 22 and 18 points respectively.

This time, however, it was a different story. From the jump the Irish were on the attack, jumping out to a double-digit lead. However, midway through the first quarter, the game was stopped due to a broken rim on one of the baskets. Once the rim was replaced and play resumed, it was clear that the unexpected pause in the action did not phase the team. They continued to extend their lead, and rolled to a 76-33 victory. Briscoe was held to single digits (9 points) as Booker and Tibbs commanded the team’s offense, combining for 41 points. 

A crucial boost to the team going into the tournament was the recent return of Davis, a Mercer commit, to the lineup. Davis was dealing with a hematoma in his leg, which caused him to miss six games. He provides a reliable shooting option as well as great defense, and Delaney says that he is now fully healthy. He said, “Jake coming back gives us a huge lift. I think in the Zionsville game (on Feb. 21) was the first game where it really looked like Jake, and we’ve seen it in practice.” Davis seemed to be in full form in the Sectional games, as he collected ten assists and three steals in the win over Attucks. 

The team will now play in the Regional Championship against Ben Davis on Saturday, March 11 at 4 pm. Ben Davis gave Cathedral its first loss of the season back on December 10, beating the Irish 62-50. The Giants are ranked first in the state and tenth in the country according to MaxPreps. They are led by senior and Valparaiso commit Zane Doughty.