Southsider Voice correspondent
Greenwood Christian Academy’s historic run in the boys state basketball tournament came to an abrupt, heart-stopping end Saturday night in the championship game of the Class A Martinsville Regional.
A controversial foul against the Cougars sent Clay City’s Trevor Singer to the foul line for two free throws with almost no time remaining in the game. Singer hit both shots for a 66-65 lead, and Greenwood Christian’s desperation 3-point shot was short.
The Cougars ended their greatest basketball season to date with a 19-6 record, a Pioneer Conference championship, a first-time sectional game win and the Edinburgh Sectional championship.
The Cougars reached Saturday’s final by outlasting a fourth-quarter Metropolitan rally and defeating the Pumas 65-62 in this first morning game.
The Cougars received the runner-up regional basketball in a sportsmanlike manner and walked slowly to the locker room, where they were consoled by coach Jamie Satre. When the players finally came out of the locker room in John R. Wooden Gymnasium, they were greeted with applause and hugs from about 100 followers who had waited patiently for them.
This was the team that put the Cougars on the tournament map by winning four playoff games just two years after graduating Kyle Stidom, Johnson County’s all-time leading scorer. They leave a rich legacy for future Cougars to follow.
“Our name is out there even more than before,” Satre said. “These guys paved the way; a lot of them have been with us since fourth grade. It was great to see them come together but greater to see them be unselfish. They leave a rich tradition of being unselfish and being all about team.”
Satre said he had no postgame notes for the Cougars because he expected to leave Martinsville with the school’s first regional championship.
“I assumed we would win. The message was that I just wanted them to learn about God and how to become better men. That’s our message.”
The Cougars could not have played much better than they did against the Eels (20-6). They outrebounded Clay City 34-18, outshot the Eels 18-of-45 (42.2 percent) to 20-of-49 (40.8 percent) from the field and 24-of-29 free throws, 82.7 percent, to 21-of-27, 77.7 percent. The Eels committed only seven turnovers to the Cougars’ dozen.
“The guys really gave it their all; they left it all on the floor,” Satre said. “They cannot be ashamed of how they played. They got after it from the get-go to the very end.”
The Cougars were in control throughout most of the game. Their biggest first-half lead came when senior sharpshooter Lucas Peters hit a 3-pointer to go up 33-25. The lead grew to 46-36 at the end the third quarter.
Constant full-court pressure bothered the Cougars, who fell behind 59-58 with 2:13 to go. Trailing 64-61, Greenwood Christian senior Thad Thompson hit two free throws with 25 seconds remaining.
Senior Morgan Booher grabbed a missed Clay City free throw and drove in for a lay-up for a 65-64 lead with 7.7 seconds left, which sent Cougar fans into a frenzy.
Clay City’s Noah Denker missed a short shot as five players scrambled for the rebound off the right side of the rim. A foul was called against the Cougars.
“It’s tough to lose like that,” Satre said. “This one really stings; it’s hard to think about anything else after a heartbreaking loss like this.
That was a tough call at the end because it looked like both guys were going for it …we just have to rise above it.”
Six seniors will not get that opportunity. The Cougars will graduate Booher, Peters, Thompson, Benjamin Rastenburg, Jacob Stephenson and Zach Tyra.
Four Cougars scored in double figures – Peters with 22 points, Stephenson 16 and Booher and Thompson, each with 10. Rastenburg and Stephenson swept the glass for a combined 27 rebounds.
In the game against Metropolitan, the Cougars held their biggest lead, 47-33, shortly after the fourth quarter began. The Pumas scored seven points in 10 seconds on a 3-point shot and two lay-ups after the Cougars committed two consecutive turnovers.
The Pumas closed to 57-56 but Thompson canned a 3-pointer with 64 seconds left. Booher’s two free throws put the Cougars ahead 64-59 with 40 seconds to go. Clay City hit another trey and forced a turnover with 19 seconds left. Stephenson was fouled after grabbing a rebound and hit 1-of-2 free throws.
Booher led the way with 18 points, Peters 15, Thompson 14 off the bench and Stephenson 10.