By KEVIN HARRIS
When Doc Nash took over as the Borden High School boys’ basketball coach seven years ago, he dreamed about one huge goal for the program — a state championship.
On Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, that dream became reality.
Borden led the Class A state championship game from start to finish and defeated Triton, 55-50. It was the first state title for the western Clark County school in any sport.
“I thought it could happen,” Nash said. “It’s our goal every year to win a state championship and be competitive in the state tournament. I’ve always dreamed about being here. I believe in these kids and I believe in our community. Our community supports us.
“These guys are an amazing group of kids. These guys are very, very high-character kids. They deserve this moment. They’ve worked their tails off since Day 1 to get to where they are. I can’t say enough good things about them. I’m proud of them. It’s unbelievable. To win with this group of kids is really special.”
Borden senior Cody Bachman said all of the Braves had set a goal of winning a state championship since last season when they lost in the Class A Loogootee Regional semifinal to Orleans, 68-48.
“We’ve been talking about this since last year. I mean, we talk about it every year,” Bachman said. “We knew it was possible and we’re here now.”
Borden’s 3-point shooting and its overall defense were the critical factors in claiming the coveted state title.
The Class A No. 10 Braves (24-3) outscored the Trojans 24-12 from behind the 3-point arc, shooting 8-of-14 (57.1 percent). Borden was 6-of-9 from 3-point range in the second half alone (66.7 percent).
Nash brought his players up to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for a practice on Wednesday so they get accustomed to shooting at the home of the Indiana Pacers. He said the Braves were hitting 3’s all over the place, which was a good sign for the state final.
“They had the NBA [3-point] line out and I air-balled an NBA 3. Then these guys go out and made it look easy. They were making all kinds of shots,” Nash said. “On the bus ride home, I told our assistant coach Ray [Weatherford] that I hope we save some for Saturday morning. Looking at the stat sheet, I think we did. I’m not sure if we’ve hit eight 3’s in a game.”
The Braves’ best 3-point threat was Jalen McCoy. The 6-foot-1 senior guard made three of his eight 3-point attempts and finished with a team-high 15 points.
McCoy said Wednesday’s practice at the fieldhouse was beneficial for him and his shot.
“It did help,” McCoy said. “We hadn’t played in a gym as big as Bankers Life obviously as far as the depth perception. When we came up Wednesday, I think it helped us a little bit and gave us a little confidence that we can hit shots.”
Borden’s man-to-man defense gave Triton (20-6) fits for the majority of the contest, especially in the first half.
For the game, the Trojans shot 18-of-43 from the field (41.9 percent) and 4-of-17 from 3-point range (23.5 percent). Entering the Class A state final, Triton had a 49.1 field-goal percentage and a 35.6 3-point percentage.
In the opening half, the Trojans scored only nine points as they misfired on 12 of their 16 field-goal attempts in the first 16 minutes. In fact, they scored only two points in the second quarter.
“It was just a great team effort to hold them guys to nine points in a half,” Nash said.
Borden’s primary focus on defense was 6-6 Triton senior guard Clay Yeo. The Valparaiso University signee scored only two points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half. He entered the game as the state’s fourth-leading scorer at 26.3 points per contest.
Bachman drew the defensive assignment on Yeo for the majority of the game and held his own against the Indiana All-Star candidate in the opening half.
But Yeo got going in the second half, as he tallied 24 of his game-high 26 points. He was 8-of-12 from the floor in the latter half.
Nash knew that Yeo was going to heat up in the second half.
“We kept talking about it at timeouts, ‘It’s going to Yeo. It’s going to Yeo. It’s going to Yeo,’” Nash said. “Give him credit, man. He made one shot falling away on the right side and he had two guys in his face. He’s got a good basketball IQ.
“The kid is good. He’s the best player we’ve played. I think he’s going to have a good career at Valpo, so give him all the credit in the world.”
The Braves’ largest lead was 12 points, which occurred in two different instances. The last time they held a 12-point advantage was at 31-19 when Bachman made a 3-point play with 7:54 remaining in regulation.
The Trojans made one final charge. They got their deficit down to 50-47 with 1:18 left on two Yeo free throws.
But Triton would not get any closer. The Braves hit 5-of-6 free throws the rest of the way and the celebration by the Borden faithful began.
The Braves knocked down 11-of-14 foul shots in the final quarter, which was an improvement from last week’s Class A Seymour Semistate where they missed several critical foul shots in the closing minutes. For the game, Borden was 11-of-17 from the stripe.
“We practiced them all week,” Nash joked. “No, we didn’t do anything different this week than we normally do. Our kids learned from that experience. There were 8,000 people at Seymour, screaming and hollering. I don’t know how many there were today, but there were a lot. When we get in that situation with these guys on the line, I was just as confident as they were.”
Two other Braves scored in double figures. Senior Michael Lynch had 13 points and Bachman finished with 10. Borden senior point guard Billy Kirchgessner had nine points, five rebounds and game highs in assists (four) and steals (three).
Nash thanked Borden athletic director Toby Cheatham, Borden principal Lisa Nale and Weatherford, who was on the search committee that hired Nash seven years ago, for giving him an opportunity to build a successful program at Borden.
“It was important for Mr. Cheatham, Miss Nale and Coach Weatherford to give me a chance,” Nash said. “I didn’t have any other coaching experience other than being a [junior varsity] coach. For whatever reason, God led them to give me a chance and they believed in me.
“It wasn’t all parades at first. It was rocky. But they supported me. I’ve got the best AD in the world and a principal that loves us to death. What more can you ask for.”
CLASS A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
BORDEN 55, TRITON 50
Triton 7 2 10 31—50
Borden 13 5 10 27—55
Triton (20-6): Clay Yeo 9-18 6-6 26, Tanner Shepherd 3-10 3-4 10, Joey Corder 2-4 0-0 4, Seth Glingle 2-4 0-0 4, Trenton Cooper 1-1 0-0 3, Cody Shively 1-3 1-1 3, Darren Harrell 0-0 0-0 0, Dillon Meadway 0-0 0-0 0, Bryson Mosier 0-0 0-0 0, Drew Mosson 0-0 0-0 0, Skyler Reichert 0-3 0-0 0, Bryce Wanemacher 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-43 10-11 50.
Borden (24-3): Jalen McCoy 6-13 0-0 15, Michael Lynch 5-7 2-5 13, Cody Bachman 2-5 5-6 10, Billy Kirchgessner 2-3 3-4 9, Garrett Vick 2-7 1-2 5, Josh Vollstedt 1-3 0-0 3, Josh Ruedinger 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-39 11-17 55.
3-point field goals: Triton 4-17 (Yeo 2-7, Cooper 1-1, Shepherd 1-5, Corder 0-1); Borden 8-14 (McCoy 3-8, Kirchgessner 2-2, Lynch 1-1, Vollstedt 1-1, Bachman 1-2).
Rebounds: Triton 28 (Corder 7); Borden 23 (Vick 6).
Assists: Triton 7 (Corder 3); Borden 13 (Kirchgessner 4).
Steals: Triton 4 (Glingle, Shepherd, Shively, Yeo 1); Borden 6 (Kirchgessner 3).
Blocked shots: Triton 5 (Yeo 2); Borden 1 (Kirchgessner 1).
Turnovers: Triton 8, Borden 6.
Total fouls: Triton 14, Borden 13.
Fouled out: Glingle (T); Vick (B).