Senior staff writer
Basketball was secondary Friday night at Beech Grove High School during the annual girls-boys varsity doubleheader against Roncalli.
On-court ceremonies between games honored cancer survivors during fourth annual Coaches vs. Cancer night.
Beech Grove boys basketball coach Matt English was among the honorees. He was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, underwent surgery, coached practices from a chair and has been cancer-free since the start of the 2011-12 season. Players from the 2011-12 team also joined in honoring their former coach.
Also honored were Kurt Ating, John Corbin, Chris Ogden and Autumn Wallace, all of whom received a standing ovation from the near-capacity crowd.
Roncalli’s boys coaches wore commemorative T-shirts as did Hornets coaches and scores of Beech Grove students.
“I’m so glad that we could participate in this very special night,” Roncalli coach Michael Wantz said. “All these survivors have been through so much and they have a lot of support.”
Coaches vs. Cancer is a national event through the American Cancer Society. Beech Grove’s night adds extra local touches such as T-shirts with English’s favorite motto, “We before me,” candy sales and a basketball toss.
Friday night was special for all families, particularly English, who fondly remembers how the Beech Grove community has pulled together for families.
“The community was so good to our family, this is a way to give back to the community and give back to those who are going through what we went through,” he said. “When I look back on tonight, I’m not going to remember the game as much as I will remember the community support and all those former players who gave up a Friday night to come back home.”
Oh, by the way, there were two basketball games.
Beech Grove’s girls opened with a convincing 62-42 triumph over the Rebels, but the Hornets’ boys team dropped a 61-60 duel on a late-game putback by Roncalli 6-10 center Collin Sonderman.
Roncalli led 38-29 at the half behind Sonderman’s nine points in the first quarter and junior Kellen Schreiber’s six points in the second quarter.
Beech Grove launched a second-half comeback with an up-tempo offense and an effective three-quarter court pressure defense. The Hornets pulled to within one point three times in the third quarter.
Under pressure, Roncalli committed six turnovers in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. Beech Grove’s Chase Andries made two defensive steals and two layups for a tie at 57 and a 60-59 lead. Ten seconds and one more steal later, Beech Grove missed two free throws to set the stage for a missed Rebels shot and Sonderman’s game winner.
“I was at the right place at the right time,” Sonderman said. “I crashed the board and luckily one of my teammates got it off the glass; I had a good angle to put the ball in the basket when we needed it.”
Sonderman scored a game-high 17 points with Christian Stewart and Bryson Meek adding 10 each. Dylan Allen scored 14 points for the Hornets, Kenny Washington 12 and Andries 11. Beech Grove’s bench chipped in 17 points with junior Jaylen Curry scoring 10 points.
Roncalli (7-3) extended its winning streak to five games; Beech Grove (6-4) had a four-game streak snapped.
The Hornets were among six Southside teams that opened the Marion County tournament Tuesday, with quarterfinals Wednesday at eight sites. Southport is the site of semifinals Friday at 6 p.m. and the championship Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The girls first-quarter score ended: Beech Grove’s Cameron Cardenas 14, Roncalli 8.
Cardenas, a 6-1 junior, scored 13 points in the next three stanzas as the Hornets defeated Roncalli for the first time since 2005. Cardenas also was honored at halftime for surpassing the 1,000-point career mark.
“Our goal for the offense is to always come out quick,” Cardenas said after the game. “I think this was our best game; we decided to use our press. We were really communicating, especially on defense.”
The Hornets expanded a 28-19 halftime lead to 48-30 at the end of the third quarter. Beech Grove’s stingy defense held Roncalli’s 3-point record-setter Ellie Bischoff to only two 3-pointers.
Cardenas and junior teammate Katie Giller continued their one-two punch. Giller scored 19 points and snared a game-high 15 rebounds. Junior Mallory Storms scored 10 points and six rebounds.
Freshman Alana Vinson scored 14 points for the Rebels, who hit only 12-of-41 shots (29.3 percent). Beech Grove connected on 25-of 57, 43.9 percent, and controlled the boards 33-18. Roncalli had 18 turnovers.
“We came to play,” BG coach Kristen Raker said. “Team defense won for us. We were aggressive and we communicated. And Cameron took charge early and fired us up.”
Unranked Beech Grove is 13-2 after opening the season with a nine-game winning streak. Roncalli, playing without injured 5-11 junior Katelyn McClary (knee) and senior Paige Saylor (family matter), are 11-8 with only two wins in its last six games.
Key girls games (7:30 p.m., unless noted) – Thursday: Beech Grove at Whiteland; North Central at Center Grove; Franklin Central at Pike; Franklin at Perry Meridian. Saturday: Center Grove at Roncalli, 1 p.m.; Beech Grove at Speedway, 2:30 p.m. Tuesday: Greenwood at Southport; Perry Meridian at Center Grove.