By KEVIN HARRIS
RICHMOND – Despite losing 64-50 to No. 3 Indianapolis Tindley in the Class A Richmond Semistate last Saturday at the Tiernan Center, New Washington accomplished one thing during its state tournament run – it brought the New Washington community together.
A large contingent of Mustang fans filled up their section of the 8,100-seat arena, producing some of the loudest cheers during the two semistate games. In the Class 2A semistate, Crawford County defeated Heritage Christian 49-40.
“They’ve left a great, positive legacy for our community,” New Washington head coach and former Mustang player Jonathan May said about his players. “They weren’t just playing for themselves and they weren’t just playing for the team. They were playing for a community because I know a lot of people, me included, were living out some of their own childhood dreams. It’s been a dream of mine as a player and as a coach to be able to experience something like this.”
New Washington senior center Stevie Mack was proud to see Mustang Nation come together during the Class A state tourney. This season New Washington captured sectional and regional championships for the first time since 2001.
“We got to see the respect and the things that have been missing for years and we found it,” Mack said. “I can’t speak for the entire senior class. I can’t speak for the fans and I can’t speak for the entire community. But we came and we saw. We were here.
“We didn’t reach our ultimate goal because the ultimate goal was making it all the way. But we found some peace in that we worked our tails off. We worked hard.”
Senior Hunter Lind led the Mustangs (20-10) with 15 points, shooting 5-of-12 from 3-point range. New Wash senior guard Brandon Horton had 13, while Mack posted a double-double with 12 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
After scoring seven first-half points, New Washington senior forward Zach Moore left the game early in the third quarter as he was ill because of a stomach bug. Moore was one of the Mustangs’ leaders all season.
Junior guard Eric Hunter, who has drawn interest from Indiana, Purdue and Butler, paced Tindley (23-5) with a game-high 23 points. Tiger junior guard KJ Coleman had 17 points, while teammate Hunter White ended up with 12 points. Tindley will play No. 1 Lafayette Central Catholic (22-6) in the Class A state championship game at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
New Washington said goodbye to seven seniors in Horton, Lind, Mack, Moore, Caleb Ellison, Noah Franklin and Brandon Gill.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Hunter – The Tiger standout shot 9-of-18 from the field and 4-of-6 from the free-throw line along with grabbing six rebounds. Hunter also posted game-highs in assists (six) and steals (three).
“We knew there was going to have to be five guys to guard him,” May said. “He can score in each of the three ways. He can catch it and shoot it. He can put it on the floor and get to the rim, and he can get to his pull-up (jumper) quickly.”
Honorable mention: Lind – His 3-point shooting helped keep the Mustangs in contention for a good portion of the game. Lind nailed back-to-back 3’s midway through the fourth quarter to pull New Wash to within 51-46. But after that, Tindley closed the game with a 13-5 run.
KEY SEQUENCE: With the Tigers leading 23-22 with about two minutes left in the first half, they went on a 13-2 run to go up 36-24 near the midway point of the third. Tindley scored the final five points of the opening half to take a 28-22 halftime advantage. Then it started the third by tallying eight of the period’s first 10 points.
The 13-2 spurt put Tindley in control of the contest and forced New Washington to play catch-up the rest of the way.
“To be able to close out quarters and start quarters, it can have such a huge impact on the game,” Tigers’ head coach Bob Wonnell said. “These guys knew where their minds were, with the focus on defense and the focus on rebounding and just being aggressive on offense.”
UNSUNG HERO: Ellison – The 5-foot-9 point guard grabbed six rebounds and led the Mustangs in assists with five. He played a key role in keeping the game at a slow pace at certain points, which played in New Wash’s favor.
WHAT THE MUSTANGS DID WELL: New Washington shot very well from 3-point range, knocking down 9-of-21 from 3-point range (42.9 percent). Lind deserves most of the credit for that. During certain segments of the semistate, the Mustangs kept the contest as a half-court affair, which kept them within striking distance. Mack had another double-double.
AREAS OF CONCERN FOR NEW WASHINGTON: One of the biggest concerns for May entering the semistate was how the Mustangs would handle Tindley’s quickness.
At times, New Washington fared well against the Tigers’ speed. But at other times, it struggled.
“I thought we were just a little sped up on some things on the offensive end, which happens when you’ve got ball pressure like that on you,” May said. “We prepared as much as we could this week for that. But it’s hard to simulate that type of quickness and that type of ball pressure. We knew coming in that we were going to have to play pretty well.”
Mustang fans will always wonder if the semistate outcome would have been different if Moore was healthy.
“I feel bad for him. Zach has been amazing for us this year and all four of his years,” May said. “I really feel for him right there. It’s no comfort to him, but I believe everything happens for a reason.”
CLASS A RICHMOND SEMISTATE
INDIANAPOLIS TINDLEY 64, NEW WASHINGTON 50
New Washington 15 7 14 14-50
Tindley 19 9 17 19-64
New Washington (20-10): Hunter Lind 15, Brandon Horton 13, Stevie Mack 12, Zach Moore 7, Caleb Ellison 3, Jesus Diaz 0, Noah Franklin 0, Brandon Gill 0, Hunter Miles 0, Spencer Tye 0, AJ Walter 0.
Tindley (23-5): Eric Hunter 23, KJ Coleman 17, Hunter White 12, Joseph Johnson 6, Tyler Young 4, Sincere McMahon 2, Adedotun Adegbemigun 0, Maciah Caldwell 0, Andrew Knox 0, Keith Malone 0, Chris Murff 0, Josiah Poole 0.
3-point field goals: New Washington 9 (Lind 5, Horton 2, Ellison 1, Franklin 1); Tindley 3 (Coleman 2, Hunter 1).
Rebounds: New Washington 30 (Mack 12); Tindley 24 (White 7).
Turnovers: New Washington 13, Tindley 5.
Free throws: New Washington 7-12, Tindley 13-19.
Total fouls: New Washington 18, Tindley 13.
Fouled out: none.
Fouled out: none.