Ben Davis completes perfect 33-0 season for its Fourth State Championship
Few things motivate a basketball team more than the promise of being on the right side of history.
Ben Davis spent 32 games positioning itself for such an opportunity, and on Saturday night the Giants grabbed it with both hands with a 53-41 win over Kokomo in the Class 4A championship game.
Senior center Zane Doughty, fearless from the opening tip against heralded Wildkats big man Flory Bidunga, scored a game-high 20 points to lead Ben Davis, which now elbows itself into rarified air with a final record of 33-0.
Are these Giants among the greatest teams ever?
Whether the fourth state champion in program history could run with the 1969 Washington Continentals, 1971 East Chicago Washington Senators or any of Marion’s Purple Reign ball clubs from the late-1980s is for old-timers to debate over lunch counters.
Surely, there are others to consider; coach Don Carlisle’s team is the 14th undefeated boys state champion in state tournament history.
Doughty, who stands 6-9 to Bidunga’s 6-10, was a force from the get-go.
Just the way he planned it.
“I don’t really care about rankings. I don’t care what they’ve done before. All I know is what he does against me,” said Doughty. “And tonight I showed that. I mean, the only time he scored is when I was out (with foul trouble).
“I don’t care how big you are, I’m going to go after you the same as if you were just some random guy. We kind of knew Kokomo would be a different team from when we played them earlier, but we were ready for it.”
Sophomore guard Mark Zackery scored 16 points for Ben Davis, while senior swingman Shaun Arnold added 12.
Carlisle, a 1997 Ben Davis graduate, was already familiar with success. The 1995 and 1996 Giants squads of which he was part of the roster, both captured single-class state championships inside the since-bulldozed RCA Dome.
“As a player, you just go along for the ride. You work hard, and, hopefully, come out and put out a good product,” said Carlisle. “As a coach, you’re in control of a lot more. A lot more stress, and a lot more things you’ve got to go about being in charge of. Especially the kids.
“As a coach, it’s a tougher gig. These kids, we’re 33-0. The first time that’s happened. I’m so incredibly proud of them.”
Kokomo led the game on three occasions at the outset, but an 11-0 scoring flurry by the Giants put them in control for the remainder of the first half.
The Kats had 10 turnovers at halftime, and made good on only 1 of 6 attempts from behind the 3-point stripe in the first two quarters.
As a result, Ben Davis defensively was able to focus attention on Bidunga with double- and triple-teaming near the basket. The Giants held a 13-point advantage twice late in the second stanza before settling in with its 11-point spread entering the third period.
Little changed until Doughty went to the Ben Davis bench with his third foul with 4:45 remaining in the third and his team ahead, 33-23.
Kokomo took advantage, closing the quarter with a 10-3 scoring run as Bidunga accounted for nine points, including a pair of thunderous two-handed slam dunks, and a dunk off an alley-oop feed.
The Kokomo crowd in hysterics, Ben Davis didn’t flinch.
The Giants opened the fourth period with an 8-0 run, starting with a Doughty hoop in close and Zackery’s layup off a steal. Doughty followed with a basket at 4:12, and Zackery’s steal and slam dunk 17 seconds later basically sealed it.
Kokomo, which was vying for its first state title since 1961, finished the season 24-5 and with plenty of regrets as to how it labored from the perimeter and free throw line.
The Kats were 1 of 10 from deep, and a disastrous 2 of 13 (.154) from the charity stripe.
Bidunga had his customary double-double (19 points, 11 rebounds) to go along with five blocked shots, but was just 1 of 7 in free throws.
Teammate Zavion Bellamy chipped in nine points and eight boards, while Patrick Hardimon had four points, six rebounds and four assists.
As for the Giants, their first two baskets of the game were scored by Doughty.
“He’s been doing it all year. Any time we played against a guy where he had to bring it, he has,” Carlisle said of Doughty. “In my mind, there’s no doubt he’s the best big man in the state.
“He’s proved it over and over again, and he proved it again tonight. I know Flory got loose a little bit in the second half. But Zane played tough, he played strong. He went back at him, and had an incredible game.”
Class 4A State Championship Records
Kokomo’s Shayne Spear presented the Trester Mental Attitude Award
Following the game, members of the IHSAA Executive Committee named Shayne Spear of Kokomo High School as the winner of the Arthur L. Trester Mental Attitude Award in Class 4A Boys Basketball.
The award is presented annually to a senior participant in each classification who was nominated by his principal and coach and has demonstrated excellence in mental attitude, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability.
Outside of basketball, Shayne has been a Kokomo-Leadership Academy and a WildKat elementary school mentor for the past two years. Shayne is also apart of the Kats Together-Unified student advisory group and an Upward basketball referee in his free time. He was Academic All-State and All-Conference in football, as well as the football and basketball team captain. He will participate as a member of the track team for fourth year this spring as well.
He is the son of Jason and Shelly Spear of Kokomo, Indiana and plans to attend University of Findley on a football scholarship and study Sports Marketing.
The Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever, the presenting sponsors of the IHSAA Boys Basketball State Tournament, presented a $1,000 scholarship to the general scholarship fund at Kokomo High School in the name of Shayne Spear.
The award is named in honor of the late Arthur L. Trester, who served as the first IHSAA commissioner from 1929 to 1944 as a guiding force after the Great Depression.