In Southeastern Indiana, it’s a rare occasion to see local boys basketball teams make a state championship game appearance, let alone win a state championship.
The Milan Indians won it all in 1954, sparking the Hoosier Hysteria craze.
Batesville made the trip in 2001 while still in Class 2A, but fell when a half court shot went in and out at the buzzer.
In 2009, Jac-Cen-Del made the trip, and cut down the nets en route to a Class 1A title.
Now in 2013, Southeastern Indiana puts its faith in a new team, a Decatur County team making its first state finals appearance since 1931 and looking for their school’s first ever title. It’s finally beginning to sink in. The Greensburg Pirates are playing for a 3A State Championship on Saturday night!
One word describes this Greensburg Pirate tournament run…..dominating. During a six game stretch that has included defeating the #8, #5, #4, and #1 teams in Class 3A, the Pirates have beaten their tournament opponents by an average of 20.8 points per game, an average that has been fueled by a jaw dropping offense (71.8 ppg), and a tough as nails defense (51 ppg). But coming back home on Saturday with no trophy on the bus will erase what Pirate Nation has accomplished this year. The blue and white are playing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to win a state championship, and anything other than a win will be a major blow. Senior Tyler Burcham, who said two weeks ago that anything less would be a disappointment, reiterated the team’s mindset heading into Saturday, “I think everybody in our locker room is just focusing on finishing out this season to accomplish our goal we set on day one.”
In order to accomplish that dream, the Pirates will face off against a worthy opponent, another ball club who is looking for their first ever boys basketball state championship, the 7th ranked Fort Wayne Concordia Cadets. At 23-4, the Cadets have put together a relatively quiet, but fantastic season. With their only four losses coming to four 4A schools, Concordia has reeled off some huge wins throughout the season, including victories over Fort Wayne Luers, Norwell (Regional Championship), and an overtime win in the semi-state versus #3 Andrean. And just like each opponent Greensburg has faced in the tournament, the Cadets will be a whole new opponent, with a whole new style. Pirate junior guard Bryant McIntosh said this about Concordia, “They are an extremely athletic team and I feel they are one of the best at getting out in transition. They are very long and athletic.” For the first time all season, Greensburg won’t have the height advantage. The size and length of Concordia immediately sticks out as their starting lineup goes 6’3, 6’6, 6’6, 6’6, and 6’7. Offensively, the Cadets won’t open your eyes with their perimeter shooting (only 33% beyond the arc), but their size and “run n gun” offense leads to a lot more high percentage shots from the inside (56% overall). In the backcourt, 6’6 junior guard D.J. McCall is a slasher, averaging 17.3 ppg on 63% shooting from the field, and 6’6 senior guard Thomas Starks is averaging 12.8 points a contest, shooting 55% from the field. On the inside for the Cadets, 6’7 senior forward Brian Germaux has averaged 10.7 points on 57% shooting while also grabbing six rebounds per contest. Greensburg junior forward Sean Sellers was quick to point out that Germaux will be the most polished big man they’ve seen this season, “He has great footwork and he does a pretty good job of feeling pressure in the post and kicking it out to open shooters.” Sophomore center Ryan Welage added, “We will need to get them in foul trouble and defensively we will have to front the post. We have to have each others back to prevent passes from getting inside.” From a defensive standpoint, the size of Concordia will be a challenging match-up as the long arms and bodies of the Cadets will surely look to force the Pirates to change things up on their side of floor, especially in the Pirates backcourt. With Macy Holdsworth and Colin Rigney at only 5’11 and 6’0 respectively, Holdsworth knows that the duo will have to switch up their style on both sides to combat the much taller Cadet guards, “We’ll have to focus more on blocking out and rebounding from the guard spots. Offensively, we will have to make sure we are solid with everything we do. We won’t have the straight reversal pass like we normally do. It’s going to take a dribble and a ball fake to move the defense’s hands.”
While Greensburg has prepared for Concordia, Concordia I’m sure is well aware of what the Pirates possess. And while the Pirates may have to make some slight adjustments, expect the boys to stick with what has got them to Indianapolis. The offense has been the biggest spark plug. Since the regional, Greensburg has shot 50% or better in each of their ballgames, including a 24 of 42 performance last Saturday versus Mt. Vernon (57%). The fast starts the Pirates have had are also impressive. In the last three games, the Pirates have jumped out on the scoreboard to take quick leads, something they feel will be a huge key against Concordia. Bryant McIntosh stated Tuesday night, “I think it’s a big key. It allows all of us to relax and play. When you get off to a good start it just gives you confidence throughout the entire game.” And offensive confidence they have had. Sean Sellers, McIntosh, and Ryan Welage have been consistent double figure scorers throughout this tournament (Sellers and Welage consistent double double machines too) but don’t forget the fire power from three point land via junior guards Macy Holdsworth and Colin Rigney. With Holdsworth getting it done in the regional, and Rigney going bonkers in the semi-state, these two have led a perimeter attack that has hit 21 3’s in three games.
While the Greensburg offense has been the storyline, the defense is quickly beginning to get some much deserved publicity. The fact that the Pirates are only giving around 46 points per game should be your first indication of how good this team sits down on defense. With their mix of size, speed, and athleticism at each spot, it has been extremely difficult for opposing teams, especially in this tournament run, to find any open space. Tournament opponents have been ice cold from the field in large part to this and the Pirates have held each of their tourney opponents below their average points per game. Aside from limiting the number of points, Greensburg has also used their abilities to simply wear opponents down. Go back to the second half of the regional semifinal versus Bosse and it’s easy to see that when the Pirates pulled away late in the third quarter, the Bulldogs had no energy left to play catch up. Fatigue was also a factor against Mt. Vernon last Saturday. The Marauders played stellar defense in the first half only to have the Pirates continue to hit shots and step up their defensive intensity to walk out of Richmond with a 25 point victory. For these Greensburg guys defense is more than just swatting shots away. The Pirates are one of the rare teams who can actually sit down defensively, slide their feet, and execute a game plan on defense that makes their opponents noticeably uncomfortable on offense.
But don’t forget about Greensburg’s sixth man. Not the guy who comes off the bench first during games, but the sixth man in the stands, better known as #PirateNation. While players and coaches get the job done on the floor, this Greensburg fan base, made up of thousands, has been the school spirit and community support that this Pirate team has used to make every game this season feel like a home game in the Tree City. With over 2,600 tickets sold already at Greensburg High School this week, the basketball team can expect the overwhelming support at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to take away the nerves of playing at much larger venue. Tyler Burcham was one to agree, “We played in front of 8,000 fans in Richmond last Saturday with nearly half being our fans, I don’t think nerves will be a big issue. We have one of the largest fan bases in the entire state.” Macy Holdsworth added, “Everyone is excited for us. Ticket sales have been crazy. The support we receive in my opinion is unmatched with any other school. We could not ask for better fans and we are so glad to have them on this ride with us.” Inside Bankers Life on Saturday night, expect to see all seven seas of Pirate Nation! It’ll be one rowdy crowd!
Ryan Welage put it best, “This school has had several teams that have came close, but none have actually done it. To finally have a team win it all would be a win for the entire community.” The 2012-2013 Greensburg Pirates are 25-1. They have set the record for most wins in a single season, they’ve won the EIAC title, they’ve won the program’s 38th sectional title, the 7th regional title, and the program’s first ever semi-state crown. But something is missing inside the trophy cases that are displayed inside the walls of Greensburg High School, a state championship trophy, the first state championship in any sport at Greensburg. The 1998 softball team was a state runner-up, the baseball teams have tasted the Final Four, and so have the basketball teams, but still no Pirate has ever claimed the top prize.
The opportunity the Pirates have on Saturday is an opportunity to bring satisfaction to every Pirate, to everyone who has lived in Greensburg, past or present. At 6 pm Saturday night, inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 12 young men in blue and white, who have put in the time, the blood, the sweat, and the tears, through spring, summer, fall, and winter, will have the chance to silence the doubts, to live the dream, to make history, to bask in the glory…..to forever be called a champion!