Article by Tom MoorSpecial for IndyStar; Nikos Frazier photography via Lafayette Journal & Courier
LOGANSPORT – Standing on the free-throw line with seemingly the weight of the world on his shoulders, Carmel senior guard Brian Waddell took a deep breath and then delivered some of his most important shots in a Greyhounds uniform.
After getting fouled down in the post, Waddell calmly drained two free throws with 17 seconds remaining in Saturday’s Class 4A regional at Logansport to give his team a one-point lead against Lafayette Jeff. As the seconds ticked toward zero, the Bronchos had a chance to win the game, but Carmel’s Connor Gioia swiped away a pass by Lafayette Jeff’s Brooks Barnhizer as time expired.
Waddell finished with a team-high 23 points as the second-ranked Greyhounds recorded a thrilling 50-49 win, which prompted dozens of masked-wearing Carmel students to storm the court.
It was the Greyhounds’ third regional title in the past four years.
Carmel (24-2) will play Gary West Side in next weekend’s semistate for a berth in the state finals. Eighth-ranked Lafayette Jeff finishes its season 25-3.
“I’m just so happy for him,” Carmel coach Ryan Osborn said of Waddell. “It couldn’t have happened to a better person. He’s fought through injuries and developed as a leader. With 30 seconds to play, (junior guard Pete) Suder said, ‘Give the ball to Brian.’ It shows how much trust they have in him.”
Added Waddell: “Standing there, I’m not going to lie I didn’t feel some pressure. You have fans screaming in your face, which it wasn’t like this season. But having that energy behind you helps.”
The win was extra special for Carmel after it missed out on a chance at a regional title last year when the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19 shortly after the Greyhounds captured its sixth-straight sectional title.
“We’ve been through a lot to get here,” said Osborn, whose team beat previously unbeaten and top-ranked Homestead, 60-49, in the morning semifinal. “I’m really proud of them.”
Against Lafayette Jeff, the Greyhounds looked dominant for the first quarter and a half as they sprinted out to a 26-15 lead with 4:28 to play in the half. That’s when the tables turned, though, and Carmel went ice cold. The Bronchos finished the half on a 12-0 run, while holding the Greyhounds scoreless for more than four minutes.
Barnhizer, Lafayette Jeff’s leading scorer, scored seven during the stretch to give his team a 27-26 lead at the break. Carmel, meanwhile, turned the ball over six times in the second quarter which lead to several easy buckets for the Bronchos.
The Greyhounds started the third quarter slow before bouncing back in a big way. A 13-0 run by Carmel from the 2:44 mark of the third quarter to 7:43 remaining in the game gave the Greyhounds a 41-34 lead.
“We knew we were the better team,” Waddell said. “We were confident that we were going to make a play when it came down the stretch, and we were able to deliver.”
But not before Lafayette Jeff made one final comeback. Trailing 46-37 with 5:30 to play, the Bronchos outscored Carmel 12-2 to take a one-point lead.
Their last points came on a three-point play by Barnhizer that gave Jeff a 49-48 lead with 1:44 to play. The Bronchos had a chance to expand the lead, but Ashton Beaver missed the front end of a one-and-one with about 30 seconds to play to set up Waddell’s heroics.
“I give a lot of credit to their team,” said Osborn, who led Carmel to a state championship two years ago. “Barnhizer is a heck of a player. But our guys stuck with it tonight and didn’t get rattled. I think they believed they were going to win.”
Barnhizer finished with a game-high 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting.
Waddell, meanwhile, finished 9-of-12 shooting and added six rebounds. Carmel guard Samuel Orme came off the bench to score nine points on three second-half 3-pointers.
CARMEL 50, LAFAYETTE JEFF 49
Carmel. 16. 10. 12. 12. — 50
Lafayette Jeff. 11. 16. 7. 15. — 49
Carmel (24-2) — Connor Goia 1-4 0-0 2, Pete Suder 4-9 0-0 8, Brian Waddell 9-12 2-2 23, Charlie Williams 1-2 3-5 5, Sam Orme 3-5 0-0 9, Bryce Beery 0-1 0-0 0, Wil Leary 1-2 0-0 3. Team: 19-35 5-7 50.
Lafayette Jeff (25-3) — Jahsia Kirk-Williams 0-1 0-0 0, Brooks Barnhizer 10-18 3-6 27, Jacob Collicott 1-4 4-6 6, Armoni Williams 2-4 2-3 6, Ashton Beaver 4-9 1-2 10. Team: 17-36 10-17 49.
3-pointers — Carmel 7 (Waddell 3, Orme 3, Leary). Lafayette Jeff 5 (Barnhizer 4, Beaver).