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Gardner leads Carmel past Pike for 4A crown

Sunday, March 25, 2012

CLIFF BRUNT,AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Carmel claimed to have no superstars, but Ben Gardner sure played like one.

Gardner scored 21 of his 31 points in the second half to help the Greyhounds defeat Indianapolis Pike 80-67 in the Class 4A state final at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The senior guard broke Lawrence North center Greg Oden's record for most points in a Class 4A final and made 15 of 19 free throws, setting 4A records for most free throws attempted and made. He also had eight rebounds Saturday for the Greyhounds (23-4), who won their first title since 1977.

"He was unbelievable," Carmel coach Scott Heady said. "He showed a lot of toughness. Ben handled their pressure. Pike was all over him tonight. He hit big shots and got the ball where it needed to be."

Gardner downplayed his role.

"I just got to the line," he said. "But I'm just happy for the team. It's not really what I did, it's what we did."

Sam Curts added 18 points for Carmel and was the Arthur L. Trester Mental Attitude Award winner. Shawn Heffern had eight points and eight rebounds and Zach McRoberts had six points, eight rebounds and four blocks for the Greyhounds.

Carmel outscored Pike 30-11 from the free throw line. The Greyhounds' 30 free throws made and 45 attempts both are new 4A championship game records.

Carmel bounced back from a losing season the previous year.

"Obviously, it's an unbelievable accomplishment for our guys," Heady said. "I give those guys the credit. They are the ones who have persevered. It's kind of the expectation at Carmel. It's what we play for -- state championships."

Zavier Turner scored 20 points, Taishaun Johnson scored 19 and Ronald "R.J" Hunter added 15 for Pike (18-8). Hunter, a Georgia State recruit who entered the game averaging 20.5 points per game, finished with 15 on 7-for-16 shooting before fouling out.

Pike shot just 41 percent from the field.

"We were out of sync offensively all night," Pike coach Bill Zych said. "Give credit to (Carmel). They just did a great job tonight."

Carmel led 31-22 at halftime, then scored the first seven points in the third quarter to extend its lead to 16 points. Pike started pressing midway through the third quarter, but Carmel and its guard-laden lineup handled it easily. Pike cut its deficit to 50-39, but a 3-pointer by Kurts helped Carmel maintain control.

A 3-pointer by Turner with three minutes remaining cut Carmel's lead to 66-58, but the Greyhounds held on by making free throws. Whenever Pike made a run, Carmel answered.

"I think Carmel imposed their will on us," Zych said. "They played like they did all season long. They have a lot of good parts that play well together. We couldn't stop them defensively like we thought we could."

Carmel outrebounded Pike 44-34 and committed just eight turnovers.

"We won tonight the same way we've won all year -- with confidence, rebounding, defense, taking care of the basketball and playing together," Heady said. "I told our guys, 'Just do what we do,' and that's pretty much what happened tonight."

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