Carmel Boys Basketball Team Is State Champions Once Again
For the Carmel High School boys varsity basketball team, winning the 2021 Class 4A state championship was a long-awaited dream come true.
After winning the state championship in 2019, the Greyhounds were well on their way to more success in 2020 following a sectional title over Westfield. As the coronavirus pandemic began to spread throughout the U.S., however, the Greyhounds had the rest of their season cut short, ultimately teaching Coach Ryan Osborn’s team a meaningful lesson.
“We talk a lot about effort and everything it takes to be successful,” Osborn says. “One of those things is giving everything you’ve got, but only worrying about what you can control. We got to that point last year where everything happened pretty quickly. Even in that moment, worrying about anything else other than what we could control was counterproductive to our message as a whole. When [the tournament cancellation] happened, I think it was a great opportunity to reinforce us not regretting anything because we left it all out there.”
The unfortunate cancellation of last year’s postseason made the Greyhounds’ win over Lawrence North in the 2021 4A state championship even sweeter, as the Greyhounds defeated the Wildcats in overtime at Bankers Life Fieldhouse by a final score of 51-46. Like much of the 2020-2021 season, the Greyhounds relied on senior Brian Waddell to make an impact on the game, while juniors Pete Suder and Josh Whack made their presence known as well.
“Brian had a double-double in the state final, which was big for him – great night to put on a good performance,” Osborn says. “Then, you’ve got a guy like Pete Suder, who may not score as many points as he typically does, but he does all the little things that equate to wins. That’s what he’s done for us for three years.”
In addition to his defensive effort, Whack hit some big free throws when the Greyhounds needed them most, going seven of eight from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“The one thing that doesn’t get talked about enough is Josh Whack guarding [Shamar Avance], who we felt was their best player all year,” Osborn says. “Josh guarded him all night, and I think he scored three points. That kid’s a heck of a player, and Josh just made it tough for him. In addition to that, Josh made big free throws down the stretch and in overtime, and sealed the win.”
After playing through a very tough Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference regular-season schedule, the Greyhounds knew what it would take to make their way back to the state finals this year. Prior to facing off with Lawrence North, Carmel took down undefeated Homestead (60-49) in the regional semifinal, before inching out Lafayette Jefferson and Mr. Basketball candidate Brooks Barnhizer (50-49) in the regional final. The Greyhounds then won narrowly (53-50) over an unfamiliar opponent in Gary West Side to advance to the state final.
Throughout the entire season, Osborn made sure his team focused on one game at a time, rather than looking too far into the future.
“If you look at the tournament as a whole and how good some of these teams are, it can be overwhelming,” he says. “We take our experience in the regular season and throughout conference play, and apply it to the postseason.’”
As is often the case, the Greyhounds looked to their seniors for leadership time and time again throughout the year.
“Brian Waddell, Will Leary, Nick Frische, Bryce Beery and Connor Gioia played a lot together coming up, even in middle school,” Osborn says of his seniors. “Typically with a team, you go as your seniors go. They’re typically the group that really wants to win. They know this is their last go-around, and the sacrifices and commitment they’ve had throughout the years impacts our daily accountability.”
Looking back on the Greyhounds 2020-2021 championship run, Osborn says he’ll particularly cherish the bond he had with this group of players.
“As a younger head coach who’s finishing up my fourth year, this is a group that I got to watch grow every day for two years,” Osborn says. “As a coach, you’re learning different personalities and what it’s going to take to coach the group through different challenges and adversity. I was tested in different ways. I don’t know if they realized the opportunities that myself and our staff had to grow. Being able to step back, those are the things that really stand out – watching them grow and then being able to grow along with them as a coach.”
While Osborn admits he has a squad of talented players returning next year, he ultimately says he’s most excited about the character of the players he has coming back for the 2021-2022 season.
“I’m just really excited about where our program is,” Osborn says. “From a character, work ethic and commitment standpoint, we’ve got awesome kids. To see them get excited for each other and celebrate success is a lot of fun, and that’s what I seek most coming back.”
For more info and updates on Carmel High School athletics, visit gocarmelgreyhounds.com.