photo by: Rick McIntyre, Excel High School Sports/McIntyre Imaging
Ben Davis Giants Shorten Fort Wayne North’s Class 4A Run
INDIANAPOLIS-Taking a defensive cue from coach Mark James, the Ben Davis Giants used their defensive prowess to limit the size advantage the Fort Wayne North Side Legends brought to the table. It was that prevention effort that ultimately became decisive as the Giants claimed 55-52 win and the Class 4A state basketball championship over the Legends in the last game of the 2016-17 IHSAA season.
Trailing the entire first half, the Giants shook off the effects 25 percent shooting and a game-high nine point deficit (25-16) with their own defensive counterpunch that limited North Side to 4-of-14 shots in the third quarter.
Though still down a point (36-35) going into the final quarter, the Giants were able to dictate the pace of the game through the final quarter, as they would not trail again after a layup from Aaron Henry put Ben Davis on top with 7:46 remaining. The Giants either led or forced the Legends to pull even the rest of the way.
Ben Davis put together a clinching 6-0 run down the stretch. Sophomore Jalen Windham hit a three point shot to put Ben Davis ahead 49-46 one last time at the 2:09 mark. Meanwhile, R. J. Turner doubled that lead with a free throw and layup.
North Side, which had its inside offense from 6-11 Jaylen Butz and 6-8 Keion Brooks cut off, found three pointers from Brandan Johnson and Devontae Kinnie to stay alive, leaving the Legends down 54-52 with 18 seconds remaining.
But, Josh Brewer earned a chance to clinch for the Giants at the free throw line with 4.8 seconds on the clock. Brewer hit the first free throw, but missed the second attempt.
North Side got the ball up court quickly to give Kinnie one try for overtime, a shot that was on line, but rattled out at the buzzer. The missed shot started a combined celebration and sense of relief for the Ben Davis faithful.
James credited the focus that his senior-laden squad provided without the basketball.
“We were trying to play help side really hard on the bigs, and then work really hard to box out,” James said. “That is not easy to do, and takes a lot of focus. The best team does not always win—it is the best team in the moment. (Winning state) was not supposed to happen this year, but I am glad it did.”
North Side coach Shabaz Khaliq faulted his team’s mistakes for the end result.
“We were up four at halftime, and we should have easily been up nine or ten,” Khaliq said. “There were too many missed free throws and missed opportunities in the game that came back to hurt us.”
Windham paced all scorers with a game-high 15 points, while Ben Davis received solid balance from the likes of Datrion Harper (14), Aaron Henry (12), and Brewer (9). Butz and Juan Quarles had 11 each for North Side, while Kinnie finished with 10.
Ben Davis also captured the final individual award of the night, as R. J. Turner won the Arthur L. Trester Mental Attitude Award in Class 4A. Turner scored three points, and was tied for assist man in contest with four.
(Editors Note): Please visit www.mcintyreimaging.com for more pictures from all four state finals games.