“We made goals like winning a state championship for a reason and anything less is not acceptable in our minds.” A powerful quote from Greensburg 6th man Tyler Burcham sums up the Pirates plans this Saturday when they head to the Hatchet House in Washington, Indiana for a chance to claim the school’s first regional championship since 2009. But Burcham isn’t the only one who has plans to conquer Saturday on the Pirates road to a state championship. Greensburg starting guard Macy Holdsworth states that him along with his teammates want to make sure Pirate Nation stays in Washington all day and night, “We all have a mindset that we are going into Saturday looking to play two games.”
If Stacy Meyer’s #2 Greensburg Pirates (22-1) are aware of one simple fact in the days leading up to their regional appearance it is this……winning two games this Saturday isn’t going to be easy. But the Pirates got a taste of how tough their tournament run was going to be last weekend. After trailing at the half versus #8 Batesville, the Pirates pulled away in the second half to win 77-65. But just one night later, Greensburg would face the same type of ballgame, trailing Madison at the half and once again having to dig down deep to defeat the Cubs 69-52 to claim the school’s 38th sectional crown. Bryant McIntosh scored 20 in the contest but says it was the Pirates defense that gave them the W, “Pulling away from a very good Madison team wasn’t easy. The key was we were able to put some stops together with rebounds and convert them to points on the other end.” This brings Greensburg back to the Washington Regional for the second consecutive year with all four teams from last year’s regional returning, but this time rather than just being happy getting to that point, the Pirates know this year is all business. The Pirates undefeated season was stopped in game one last season when Brownstown Central bested the blue and white 64-57. Holdsworth who started for the 2011-2012 Pirates knows this time around is different, “We are very excited to get back to this regional but this time we are not going to be content with just being there.”
In order to make it to Saturday night’s championship game, Greensburg will have to defeat the regional’s top “Bull”dog. The Pirates open up at 10 am with #5 Evansville Bosse (19-5), the defending regional champions who feature one of the best players in the entire country, JaQuan Lyle. Lyle, a 6’4 point guard who is arguably the top junior in the state and the 16th ranked player in the country among 2014 talent is averaging a near triple double this season (27 ppg, 13 rpg, and 7 assists) including a 41 point 21 rebound performance in a sectional semifinal win over Evansville Memorial and a triple-double in the sectional finals versus Mt. Vernon (Posey). The Pirates are well aware that limiting Lyle is the key. Sophomore center Ryan Welage states, “We must limit his touches and his offensive rebounding. It will be key to not let him be a shot blocker and for us to get him into early foul trouble.” McIntosh, who has played AAU ball with Lyle and Pirate teammate Sean Sellers adds, “I don’t think we can eliminate him but we have to try and make it tough on him to get to his spots where he likes to score and create for others. If he(Lyle) can’t score he is a willing passer and he has multiple guys around him who can hit shots.” And Lyle does have multiple guys. Bosse also features two other prospective D1 talents. Fellow junior guards Perry Fairrow and Bo Burkhart can create some havoc. 6’1 Fairrow averages around 20 ppg and the 6’1 Burkhart is averaging nearly 16 points a contest in his last 10 games (10 ppg overall on the season). The Bulldogs also bring into the contest one of the state’s toughest schedules, having played some of the best teams in Class 4A and even a couple of Kentucky’s best. JaQuan Lyle is one who feels this is an advantage for Bosse, “We have played some of the toughest teams 4A has to offer and played in some amazing environments throughout the season, this should be a big help on Saturday.”
While most teams would gulp in terror facing this talented Bosse crew, Greensburg counters with their own unique blend of talent and experience which has a 45-2 record in the last two years. Having played in this regional last year, the Pirates shouldn’t have to worry about nerves, big crowds, or a bigger playing venue. Sean Sellers is one who feels this way, “I think the trip may be a little less nerve racking in the fact that we’ve now been in that type of environment and know what we need to do to play our best when Saturday comes around.” Ryan Welage, who was a starting freshman last year also adds, “This year I will be much more aggressive, relaxed, and clued in to what we are doing. The experience of playing in big games since my freshman year and going through the experience once already will help me to contribute better to the team.” On the floor the Pirates should have no problem countering Bosse’s “Big 3″ of Lyle, Fairrow, and Burkhart. The Pirates will bring in a diverse “Big 3″ of their own in McIntosh (6’4 Junior Guard and Indiana State commit), Sellers (6’6 Junior Forward), and Welage (6’8 Sophomoe Center), a trio who is also considered major D1 talent and averaging double figures on the season. But Greensburg is more than just three guys. Fellow starters and guards Macy Holdsworth and Colin Rigney are dangerous sharpshooters from the outside and the Pirates bring to the table a solid bench led by seniors Tyler Burcham and Shane Ploeger. In regards to the bench’s key role, Burcham comments for both him and Ploeger, “We both know what we need to do in order to help our team and I think our bench does a nice job at creating some energy because we do play so hard when we are in there.” And while Greensburg is well aware of Bosse, Bosse in return is well aware of the Pirates. JaQuan Lyle made it clear, “Greensburg is a very talented group that will challenge us from the get go. We are going to have to shoot the ball well, get with it defensively, and execute for the full 32 minutes.”
Should the Pirates advance, they will await the winner of game two between #4 Brownstown Central (23-1) and Vincennes Lincoln (18-6). Brownstown, a winner of five consecutive sectional titles will use their tournament experience to battle a two time defending sectional champion Vincennes Lincoln who is considered the field’s sleeper after having played a brutal Southern Indiana schedule (including a five point loss to Bosse). Brownstown’s Brett McCory, a senior who became an 1,000 point scorer in the sectional and helped the Braves prevail over Corydon Central in overtime to win the title knows how important of a role experience plays in the tournament, “It helps alot. With this being my 4th sectional and with the other guys having 2 or 3 we know what it takes to prepare for Saturday.” And while Lincoln isn’t a high scoring ball club, McCory knows that defense is instrumental in defeating the Alices, “If we can play defense and rebound the basketball we’re going to be fine.”
Because of talent and experience, Washington is arguably playing host to the best regional in the entire state on Saturday. And while records, player accolades, and proven tourney winners will be the headlines heading into the games at the Hatchet House, the Greensburg Pirates feel their advantage isn’t something opposing coaches can scout and teams can’t stop, team chemistry and school spirit. In regards to a group of Pirates who all share the true team concept, Macy Holdsworth says, “We’re best friends on and off the court. We know each others tendencies and strengths and we go out and make the most of our strengths and use them in our favor. Each guy on this team knows their role and executes it very well.” However, these Greensburg kids are quick to point out that the real motor behind their powerful engines (Honda engines of course!) are the thousands in their hometown, their school, and their surrounding area who have had their back all season long. Sean Sellers went on to say Tuesday night, “It’s one of the bigger parts in my opinion. They’ve been supporting us through thick and thin and for them to be there Saturday just gives us an even bigger confidence boost going into it.” Holdsworth adds, “The enthusiasm around school and around town is incredible. It’s been crazy around school asking us if we are excited. It’s really cool.”
Tyler Burcham best sums up the 2012-2013 Greensburg Pirates, “Our community, coaches, and team know what we have here is special.” Love them or hate them, the Greensburg Pirates are something special, and in Southeastern Indiana, teams like this one are a rare commodity from year to year. So if you see the group in blue and white passing through your hometown this weekend, wave your hand and honk your horns, because the Pirates are looking to make some noise on the regional road!