Shenandoah vr. Eastern Hancock 3-6-2021
Shenandoah had already made a statement to the sectional 41 field with two convincing wins over Lincoln from Cambridge City and Northeastern of Fountain City to advance to the championship game against the Royals of Eastern Hancock. Shenandoah was favored to win but I know the Royals are not going to just give them the trophy. With a “W” the Raiders will have captured five consecutive sectional in as many years. In any sport, on any level, this feat would be called a dynasty.
Normally the Raiders, if given the opportunity, start out with a run and gun offense. Much to my surprise the first four possessions equated to a passing fest. On the first possession, eight passes later, Andrew Bennett put Shenandoah up for good 3-0 by connecting from long range. Moments later, after nine passes, Jakeb Kinsey fed Kaden McCollough for a jumper from eight feet. Kameron Graddy working hard underneath connected on an alley-oop pass from Bennett to make the score 7-2. Again, working the ball around in a motion offense, after eight passes, Michael Howard scored with a seven-foot jumper in the lane. The Raiders toughness was also making a statement. Kinsey showed his quickness with a steal. Showing some physical “D”, Tanner Goff rung the bell of an opponent by decking him on a moving pick of which he was called for a foul. Another prime example of defense was when McCollough blocked a shot which eventually led to Kinsey getting a left-handed layup. Showing he was ambidextrous Kinsey scored again but this time from the right side for another layup putting the Raiders up 13-8 after one.
McCollough wasted no time on an inbounds play to nail a three to double the score 16-8 to open the second stanza. Bennett upped the lead to 19-10 after he stole the ball and delivered a trey to a roaring home crowd. The Royals showed some grit of their own by scoring eight straight to erase the comfortable lead closing to within one point 19-18. Interestingly it was Shenandoah’s turn to reel off the next eight straight points. It began with a McCollough pass to Jasper Campbell underneath for a bunny. Graddy sank one of two free throws to make it 22-18. Kinsey again made a steal and drove in for a layup prior to the Raiders working the clock down in the last half minute. Bennett told me later he had the option to pass or shoot, so he slammed home his third three of the half for a 27-18 advantage. Boom Baby! The student body, who stood the entire first half, shot the decibels through the roof after his bullseye.
Play continued to go in the Raiders favor to begin the third quarter. Graddy was losing the ball out of bounds when at the last second, he spied Howard cutting towards the bucket and gave him a quick, here you go pass, for a layup. Seventeen seconds later Howard drilled one of his patented corner shots for a three, smack dab in front of Shenandoah’s bench to increase the lead to 32-18. The Raiders defense continued to tighten holding Eastern Hancock scoreless for over four plus minutes. On offense Graddy scored on a nice move underneath but was called for hooking his defender. I asked him about this called, he was frustrated but gracious, believing it to be the correct call though he confessed he had made this type of move all year long but tonight this particular referee called two personals on him. No referee could
call “foul” on McCollough after he connected on an NBA like range three pointer which again ignited the partisan crowd. Remembering the, thou shall not hook commandment, Graddy worked the baseline for another bucket in the post for a nineteen-point lead 37-18. Eastern Hancock score six straight and was heading for eight when Howard came up with a loose ball and raced in for a layup stopping their short run. Years ago Scott Matzenbacher would dribble the basketball between his legs, I thought WOW. Now many of the Raiders have mastered this style of dribbling. Kaden McCollough has honed this skill to a new level, at least in my book. While working one-on-one on offense he had his defender so baffled I felt sorry for him. Anyway, after he got his defender on their heels McCollough pulled up from ten feet to push the leads to 41-24. Though Campbells defense caused a turnover but led to no points, it sent a possible message to the Royals…this guy plays tough defense. Anyway, working for the last shot Bennett, was dribbling all over the place in the front court looking for open man. With two seconds left he pulled up right of key and drilled one from downtown. Two consecutive quarter ending threes by Bennett! Delirium followed suit. I cannot make this stuff up, 44-27 Raiders with eight minutes to play.
After the game Coach McCollough shared what his plan of attack was going to be for the fourth quarter. He instructed his team to work the clock, take the ball down low and work for layups. His orders were carried out explicitly which resulted in six layups and chunks and chunks of time worked off the clock. Graddy opened with an assist from Howard for a layup. Kinsey, Bennett and Campbell split the next three buckets to increase the lead 53-31 with 3:37 left. In one of the prettier sequences of offense came moments before the starters were pulled. McCollough stole the ball and promptly passed the ball to Bennett who drove through the lane and took the defense with him leaving Kinsey unguarded and somehow had the ability to produce a bounce pass backwards to Kinsey for a layup to make the score 57-33. The final was 61-38 Raiders.
Need I say more…yes. How about a shoutout to Eastern Hancock’s junior Landon O’Neal who scored his one thousand point on a free throw in the waning moments. Congratulations! In a nice gesture of sportsmanship Coach McCollough retrieved the game ball and presented it to him for his accomplishments. A second worthwhile note is this victory was the 600th win for Coach McCollough. McCollough also shared it never gets old winning sectionals, he is also pleased how the players have jelled and succeeded on the court and it has been a fun ride thus far. A couple of statistics: Shenandoah had eight blocked shots. Bennett was responsible for six of the seventeen assist dished out. Finally the Raiders out rebounded the Royals 31-15. Howard and Graddy had seven apiece. On to the regional. Hail Shenandoah.
Ed Breeden, reporting from the last home game of this season.