MERRILLVILLE -- The run of the 2018 Andrean boys basketball team has been an exciting thrill and a whole lot of fun. But that is not all.
Advancing to the Class 2A state championship game on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse has been damn near remarkable.
In almost all six of the ‘Niners postseason wins they could’ve lost. And in a couple cases maybe should’ve.
“What a wild ride it’s been,” Andrean coach Brad Stangel said.
In the sectional opener against Bishop Noll, Andrean trailed by eight at halftime, but went on to win 54-51. A six-point win against a very good Lake Station team, playing on its home court, in the semifinal set up a final against Bowman Academy.
These state finalist were down 10 with 4:21 left in the game but lived up to the T-shirts and bumper stickers that said, “Tradition Never Graduates.”
This mantra got this team the 70-64 win and a chance to climb up the ladder of history.
“The kids just found a way to win,” Stangel said. “It seems to be a part of their DNA.”
The regional semifinal was another instant classic, a 71-70 win over Marquette Catholic. Intense. Insane. Inside the heart you could hear the thumping passion of this group.
“We did not want this to end,” Matt Lelito said.
A 60-49 win over Westview was the only “breather” this team has seen in March. But for anyone who has seen Westview there were some tired lungs and legs after that glorious Saturday night.
That set up last Saturday’s semistate against Frankton, another outstanding team and program from outside of the Region. I’ve seen Frankton play on the big stage several times and I’ve been impressed every second on the clock. Andrean won 73-64 in double overtime. For those who took in the game that is where the moniker Hoosier Hysteria began, in games just like that.
Andrean senior John Carrothers may not be the best hoopster in the 2-1-9, but he is surely making a strong case for Player of the Year as he showed in from of a packed house at Lafayette Jeff’s gym.
He scored 20 points and almost willed his deep and talented team to the victory, which sets up Saturday’s game for all the marbles against Linton-Stockton, scheduled to tipoff at 11:45 a.m.
So in six playoff wins Andrean has won by a total of 36 total points. Expect another white knuckler in Indy.
I’ve watched this group and program grow over the last three seasons. I actually covered Stangel’s first three games when he arrived at the double 59s in 2016. Some might say dropping to 2A made the trip down I-65 a little easier. But when you look at the teams Andrean has had to beat to advance, I would say no.
The Lake Station Sectional this season was filled with talented players and teams. There were and will not be any walkthroughs playing in that field.
Stangel’s team went 5-2 in the regular season against teams that went on to win a sectional.
The 59ers are deep, talented, skilled and play the game the right way. Much of this credit should go to Stangel and his staff, along with great families supporting the young men.
“I believe in these guys,” Stangel said. “It has been a lot of fun.”
Shane Power was wearing the threads the last time Andrean played in a state final, 19 years ago. Dan Dakich was sporting the same colors the team before that, when the 59ers lost a heartbreaker in the 1980 one-point loss to New Albany.
I believe this year’s team will make history.
Many of the seniors have looked at the wall inside their gym and noticed there is no state championship banner hanging. This group will get it done.
Linton-Stockton is a great southern Indiana program. But they will lose this one. By a point.