GREENCASTLE – There were tears shed Saturday night, starting with the final seconds of North Montgomery’s 59-47 basketball loss to Danville in the championship game of the Class 3A Greencastle Sectional.
Sure, there were tears of regret having come so close to knocking off the heavily favored Warriors. But they were also tears that come from a passion for the game, something that maybe a few past Chargers teams lacked.
“I saw a bunch of guys with heart, the way a Charger should play,” North Montgomery coach Chad Arnold said. “I knew they could play with these guys.”
Six Charger seniors played their final game: Jaron Bradford, Keifer Carmean, Kade Kobel, Preston Shaw, Jack Thompson and Alex Wallace. All six played important roles in helping North Montgomery take the lead four times in the third quarter against a Danville team that had routed them at home more than six weeks ago.
“They’ve meant so much to me,” Arnold said. “Words can’t describe how proud I am of them. They’ve gone through, what am I, the third coach they’ve had?
“The big thing is we started believing in ourselves. They should be proud of what they’ve done. I think they’ve started something in our program.”
That the Chargers kept the game close until the final few minutes without shooting a single free throw had even the most confident Danville fan wondering why victory wasn’t coming so easily in the rematch.
“If you told me that, I would have said we wouldn’t have been in this game,” Arnold said when informed of the free throw statistic. “But we controlled the tempo and took the shots we had. We were patiently aggressive.”
Shaw served notice that Danville would not be allowed to put the sectional title game on cruise control, hitting a long 3-pointer just before the first quarter buzzer to give the Chargers a 12-10 lead.
Wallace’s 3-pointer with 6:22 to play in the first half provided North Montgomery with its largest lead at 15-12. Consecutive baskets from Dillon Ware, Garrett Fulwider and Peyton Roof gave Danville a lead it would maintain the rest of the half.
Bradford’s 3-pointer with 1:28 remaining in the first half drew the Chargers within 23-22 but Ware denied North Montgomery a chance to take the lead into the locker room when he swatted away a shot by Kobel.
Back-to-back baskets from Thompson to start the second half triggered eight lead changes over the first five minutes of the third quarter. An 8-2 run gave Danville the lead for good, but Kobel scored with five seconds to play in the quarter to keep the Chargers within 38-35.
A personal 6-0 run from Shaw closed North Montgomery within 42-41 with 4:59 remaining and forced a Danville timeout.
The final momentum swing in Danville’s favor began with Roof scoring five points in 35 seconds, including a 3-pointer that followed a five-second violation on the Chargers.
Bradford missed a 3-pointer with the Chargers trailing 47-41. With the scoreboard clock in the Warriors’ favor, North Montgomery was forced to start fouling. Over the next three minutes, Danville went to the line 16 times and made 10 to claim its largest lead of the night.
“We had some really good shots,” Arnold said. “Toward the end we started shooting more 3s than we wanted, but we had to. We were down and we had to take whatever we could get.
“Overall, we controlled the pace the whole game. We made a few mistakes. Some loose balls didn’t go our way.”
North Montgomery can point with pride to limiting Ware, an Indiana All-Star candidate, to 17 points and five rebounds. Friday night against Crawfordsville, Ware dominated with 31 points and 14 rebounds.
“We didn’t double, we didn’t have help defense,” Arnold said of his game plan against Ware. “It was all one-on-one defense, you’ve got your man, just like it would be out on the streets. We knew they were a good passing team and we wanted to take that away from them. We wanted to stay attached to them and keep them off the boards.”
Unfortunately, Roof came up big in the second half with 14 of his game-high 19 points. Danville (22-4) won the rebounding battle 27-22, with guard Kobe Ward grabbing a game-high eight.
Wallace had 16 points to lead North Montgomery, which finishes 13-11. Shaw added nine, Thompson had eight and Bradford contributed six. Thompson also grabbed seven rebounds.