(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY STEVE PAGE)
SEYMOUR - Cam Brown said it all for he and his Beech Grove teammates following Saturday’s semi-state basketball game.
“It just wasn’t our day,” said the 6-6 Brown, one of eight Hornet seniors.
“Guerin Catholic was playing well, defending well,” he continued. “They were knocking down shots. Every time we hit a basket, they hit a basket.”
Aided by Beech Grove’s early foul troubles, the Golden Eagles pushed ahead in the second quarter and remained there, stopping the Hornets 58-46 in Saturday’s second semifinal at Seymour High School.
Guerin, 20-8, then defeated Scottsburg 56-40 to win the semi-state title and advance to the Class 3A championship game.
The defending state champion Hornets finished 17-7 after the final game for Brown and his senior teammates – Adrian Holland, Skyler Thacker, Jaleel Edwards, Jeremiah Tate, Jeremiah Alexander, Rylan Horen and Logan Muffler.
“I’m damn proud of this group,” said first-year coach Joe Rihm. “That’s a tough way to end the season, with everything this class has accomplished.
“This group had almost 60 wins. They ought to be damn proud of themselves. They were 14-2 with a state tournament, sweet 16, elite 8 and champions.”
They were all of that in the last three seasons, two under Rihm and former coach Mike Renfro, going 55-20. Renfro and Rihm both succeeded the late Matt English.
This team had shown the ability to smother its opponents, come back from deficits and put together winning rallies.
Just not on Saturday.
After scoring just five points in the second quarter, the Hornets opened the second half with a nice Alley Oop layup, but they went cold again.
In previous games, the Hornets have battled back no matter what.
But all those early fouls mounted up. So much so, that Guerin found itself shooting double-bonus free throws with 2:39 remaining in the third quarter.
That situation also forced the Hornets to soften their defense. They scored just nine points in the third period and found themselves trailing 44-29 after Lucas Parker knocked down a three-point buzzer beater as time expired in the quarter.
The Golden Eagles, despite managing just two field goals in the final frame, responded by converting 10 of 15 free throws in that span.
Brown led the Hornets by scoring 13 points, eight in the final eight minutes. Alexander scored 10, Edwards 9, Tate 6, Holland 5 for his team’s only points in the second period, and Horen 3.
To their credit, the Hornets converted all eight of their free throws, while Guerin was 16 of 26. Sophomore Bryson Cardinal led the Golden Eagles with 15.
“The fouls early got us out of our game,” Rihm said. “With those fouls, we weren’t able to get up, get into it.
“We just couldn’t get shots to fall. That was a big difference in the ballgame.”
After meeting with his players for an extended post-game session, Rihm sent them back out, where they were greeted and consoled by families and friends.
“Coach English had the vision,” Rihm said. “He saw this group coming.
“This senior group has set the foundation – no, the expectations – for what Beech Grove basketball is. Now, they can continue that.”