INDIANAPOLIS — In Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers, Lawrence North High School brought home a record tying third straight state championship with an 80-56 victory over Muncie Central. LN is only the third Indiana school to claim that feat. LN also tied the 1955-1956 Indianapolis Crispus Attucks (led by the great Oscar Robertson) with 45 consecutive victories.
LN has two future Ohio State Buckeyes in senior point guard Mike Conley and senior center Greg Oden. Both players are on the McDonald’s All-American Team. The 7-foot-tall Oden was recently named 2006 Naismith Trophy Male High School Player of the Year.
After Conley and Oden signed with OSU this past summer, my cousin Adam Sandwasher, an Indianapolis native, and I made a pack to go watch LN in the Class 4A Title. LN held up their side of the bargain. The Wildcats returned to the state finals by beating opponents by a whopping average of 20 points a game. So, I made the 2-hour trek to Indy.
My Uncle Don Sandwasher, an Ohio native and Buckeyes fan, went to the game with Adam and me. Conseco was sold out (18,345 capacity). Even though our seats were in the “nosebleeds,” I was just happy to be in the building. This wasn’t good enough for my Uncle Don, as he heckled his eldest son throughout the Class 3A Title game.
Led by the fire inside Uncle Don, we decided to try and sneak down between games. With the ushers on guard like attack dogs, our chances of sneaking down to courtside looked grim. We were hoping someone would create a diversion for us. I just didn’t think it would be my cousin Adam though. On a whim, a hope, and a prayer, he took off for the section entrance. The poor elderly women with an arthritic hip trying to man two sections at once stood no chance. She chased after Adam to no avail, and my Uncle Don and I, along with 20 others, snuck down into the adjacent section. As we shuttled down the stairs, a row of seats opened up for us. It was like it was meant to be.
The pre-game introductions were done in NBA fashion with the lights out and the spotlight on. The LN starters, including Oden and Conley, came out like a NBA team, each with their own dance. I think my Uncle Don vomited in his mouth when he saw that. Uncle Don is “old school,” and he said, “They better cut that crap out before they come to Columbus.”
In a rematch of last year’s Class 4A Title, LN was squaring off against the 20-5 Muncie Central Bearcats. The Bearcats were overmatched from the tip-off, sending their 6’5’’ center against Oden.
Conley lead the first quarter charge with 11 points. LN led 24-7 after the first period. Conley showed all his skills, shooting, passing, and rebounding. He displayed a keen court vision, and he was never flashy or out of control. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the 6’1’’ point guard going into the game, but I came away from the game very impressed. I think he will be part of the 3-guard starting line-up next year for OSU, alongside Ron Lewis and Jamar Butler.
Oden found himself in a little foul trouble in the second stanza, but he still managed to score 6 more points to give him 12 for the game. Oden even showed a little mean streak when Muncie’s center continually elbowed him. Oden laid the Bearcat center out with a nasty pick. I was glad to see that Oden had that side to him. He always seems so laid back and reserved.
LN was in complete control of the game with a 50-24 halftime advantage.
As LN continued to exert their dominance in the second half, I began to focus more of my attention on the Memphis/UCLA game. I was listening to the game and catching glimpses of the game on the reporters’ televisions on press row.
There was one memorable sequence in the third quarter. Oden was hit in the face with the ball unintentionally by a Bearcat. That set Oden off. Oden unleashed 3 dunks in a row on Muncie. If Oden wanted to, he could have dunked it on every single offensive possession.
With time running out on the game, Oden, Conley, and the rest of the starters were summoned to the bench for the last time. Oden and Conley hugged all their coaches before embracing each other. Oden finished with a game high 26 points to Conley’s 21.
• The Indy Star reported that Thad Matta was in attendance. I had my eye out for him, but I wasn’t fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of OSU’s savior.
• Also according to the Indy Star, LN went into the week with the USA Today #1 ranking. The win almost certainly ensures LN of becoming the first Indiana team to receive the honor.
• Before the game got ugly and out of hand, there were easily more people than the Big 10 Championship game (held at Conseco 2 weeks ago).
• LN fans reminded me of Atlanta Braves fans. Like Braves fans, I think LN fans have become spoiled by all the recent success. They were subdued for most of the game. My Uncle Don summed it up best. “It’s like the LN fans are thinking, we’ve been here, done that.”
• The three of us tried to start an O-H-I-O chant at the end of the game, but we had no luck. We were all a little surprised that we appeared to be the only OSU fans in attendance.