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Giant test looms ahead in county semifinal

Ben Davis stands in way of first county title in boys' basketball

ROAD+TO+VICTORY%3A+Senior+forward+Jack+Hegwood+looks+to+pass+against+a+Beech+Grove+defender+in+Wednesday%E2%80%99s+nights+victory+in+the+Woodshed.+Hegwood%2C+who+has+averaged+19.5+points+per+game+in+the+Marion+County+Tournament%2C+and+the+Rebel+basketball+team+are+in+search+of+their+first-ever+county+title.
ROAD TO VICTORY: Senior forward Jack Hegwood looks to pass against a Beech Grove defender in Wednesday’s nights victory in the Woodshed. Hegwood, who has averaged 19.5 points per game in the Marion County Tournament, and the Rebel basketball team are in search of their first-ever county title.

ROAD TO VICTORY: Senior forward Jack Hegwood looks to pass against a Beech Grove defender in Wednesday’s nights victory in the Woodshed. Hegwood, who has averaged 19.5 points per game in the Marion County Tournament, and the Rebel basketball team are in search of their first-ever county title.

Photo by Dave Schrader

Photo by Dave Schrader

ROAD TO VICTORY: Senior forward Jack Hegwood looks to pass against a Beech Grove defender in Wednesday’s nights victory in the Woodshed. Hegwood, who has averaged 19.5 points per game in the Marion County Tournament, and the Rebel basketball team are in search of their first-ever county title.

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After the program’s first victory over North Central in three tries on Tuesday and yet another win over Beech Grove, the Rebel basketball team once again finds themselves in the Marion County semifinal. Only the Ben Davis Giants, ranked fifth in the state, stand in the way.

This matchup will only be the second ever, with Ben Davis owning a 1-0 record over Roncalli with a 58-40 win in last year’s sectional championship. Senior Kellen Schreiber, a junior at the time, led the scoring for the Rebels in that game, putting up 17 in the 18-point loss.

This year is different. Roncalli’s battle-tested, senior-heavy team knows exactly what they’re up against. Despite losing many seniors from last year’s state championship team, Ben Davis is still a threat and on track for yet another championship.

The core of Ben Davis’s offense begins with the 6-5 forward Aaron Henry, who has committed to play at Michigan State next year. Henry averages nearly 18.5 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game. In last year’s contest, he had 17.

“[Senior guard] Bryson [Meek] will have the job [of guarding Henry], but it will have to be a team effort because [Henry] is such a solid player,” senior forward Jack Hegwood said. “[Meek] is our best defender, and I think he can slow down anyone he guards, so that helps.”

And Hegwood is not wrong. Despite suffering a concussion earlier in the season against Lafayette Central Catholic, Meek has come back to the court with the same fire and intensity he had before the injury. In the game against North Central Tuesday night, Meek could have been spotted multiple times crashing the offensive boards and collecting rebound after rebound, leading to more second-chance opportunities for the Rebels.

He also could have been spotted wearing a concussion headband with extra padding in case another concussion-type injury would occur. It’s just precautionary, but very uncomfortable.

“I’m trying to leave it all on the court and definitely make the most of my senior year in my final Marion County Tournament,” Meek said. “If I get hurt, then I get hurt.”

Besides Henry, Ben Davis has another Giant looming in the paint. 6’8”, 320 pound center Dawand Jones is no average basketball player. The literal big man down low may cause problems for the “inside out” offense that Roncalli runs so efficiently.

“There won’t be much of a change with the inside out game,” senior guard Joe Kirkhoff said. “[Our] offense is run a lot through the post, and getting their big guys in foul trouble would be helpful.”

“I think with them, they have a lot of guys,” head coach Mr. Michael Wantz said. “They’re so balanced. We can’t spend just all our time on Henry.”

In order to get to the semifinal round, Roncalli beat North Central Tuesday night in the Woodshed by a score of 67-57. Hegwood posted a new career high with 20 points despite getting into foul trouble late in the game.

They advanced to welcome Beech Grove into the Woodshed on a rare back-to-back night in high school basketball. Despite being winded from the game the other day, Roncalli was able to outlast the Hornets and won 51-47 in double overtime. Once again, Hegwood had a huge game with 18 points.

“These past two games I have focused on knowing my role and understanding that if our offense is struggling, my teammates sometimes look to me to score or create scoring opportunities for them,” Hegwood said. “I also started listening to Frank Ocean before games, and I think that has helped as well.”

Whether it be the pre-game music choice of Frank Ocean, or the improved shot quality on offense, Hegwood has stepped up his play these past two games, and the Rebels are benefitting from it. He has averaged 12 points per game, second most behind senior Kellen Schreiber’s 15 per game this season. In the tournament, Hegwood has averaged 19.5 per game.

For Ben Davis, wins over Decatur Central and Park Tudor have propelled them to the Marion County Tournament semifinal round.

But now, the four best teams in Marion County remain. On one side of the bracket, Roncalli and Ben Davis are squared up to take the court Saturday night at 7:30.

“It’s going to be a battle,” senior guard Reese McGinsie said.

He’s right. I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

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Giant test looms ahead in county semifinal