Thursday, April 25, 2024

Champs again!

Indians complete improbable run to repeat title

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Tyson Tarpley said simply after the game, “I didn’t want to go out a loser.”

Much like a swear word, that’s just not one that’s used around Lipan very often. Because, well, they just don’t do much of it, as evidenced by what is now the Indians’ sixth state championship and 15th appearance at state.

Tarpley, the lone senior on the squad, got his wish and played a key role in making it come true as the Indians defeated the Shelbyville Dragons 47-36 to repeat as Class 2A state champions at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Saturday, March 9.

Tarpley scored six points, connecting on two of his three 3-point attempts. He also dished out half of Lipan’s 12 assists.

The win capped an improbable run as Lipan graduated all five starters from its 2023 state champion squad. In fact, Tarpley and now sophomore Darius Steed were the lone returning players, both coming off the bench last season.

“It’s still pretty surreal, honestly,” Lipan coach Brent Gaylor said, adding that he asked himself, “We just did that?”

Indeed they did, sending Tarpley out as a back-to-back champion, only the second time in Lipan’s illustrious history they’ve accomplished that feat. The other time was in 2017 and 2018.

Tarpley’s 3-pointer midway through the third quarter stopped a 13-2 run by the Dragons (29-8) and started Lipan (36-4) on a 3-point barrage in the second half that enabled the Indians to pull away. Lipan was 7-of-14 in the final two quarters from long distance, including 5-of-7 in the third quarter.

Overall, the Indians made almost twice as many shots from 3-point range (10-of-25) than they did from 2-point range (6-of-18). The majority of those treys were made by freshman and State Tournament MVP Court Gaylor, who went 5-of-11 shooting 3s en route to a game-high 23 points.

TAKING THE LID OFF

After Lipan built a 15-5 lead early in the second quarter it appeared the Indians might be on the verge of taking total control of the contest. However, the Dragons came storming back to close within 17-15 at the half and took an 18-17 lead at the 5:28 mark of the third quarter after Ja’Davian Mathis scored, was fouled in the process, and made the subsequent free throw.

The Indians had not scored in almost eight minutes when Tarpley nailed his second 3-pointer of the game to squelch the Dragons’ momentum.

“We kind of uncharacteristically panicked for a few minutes,” coach Gaylor said. “Credit to them (Shelbyville). They’re a great team.

“When Tyson hit that corner 3 I I thought, ‘Maybe that takes the lid off.’”

It did. From then on, Lipan outscored Shelbyville 30-18.

BOUNCING BACK

After scoring only a handful of points in the first two and a half minutes of the game, Gaylor was shut down for the better part of a couple of quarters by Shelbyville’s Jonavian Mathis. Then, he caught fire again midway through the third period, hitting three 3-pointers in just over three minutes as Lipan went on a 9-4 run to lead 32-27 entering the fourth.

“You just keep going. Shots were starting to fall. You keep confidence in it,” Court Gaylor said.

Then, midway through the final quarter, his 3-pointer opened up a 37-32 lead as Lipan ended the game with a 13-4 burst.

Dragons coach Colton Wager said of his team’s inability to stop Gaylor in the second half, “We didn’t do our job. Credit to Gaylor. He’s a really good player. He made shots and stepped up.”

Not only Gaylor shoot lights out from 3-point range, he also made a pair of clutch free throws with just over a minute to play that gave the Indians their second double-digit lead, 45-34 as fans in the stands began to chant “MVP.”

Seconds later, Alberto Andreatta also hit two free throws to cap the Indians’ scoring in the 2023-24 season.

SOMETHING TO PROVE

The Indians’ theme this season was “Something to prove.”

The Indians’ sixth state championship might very well be the least expected in program history. Following last season’s title run, there was very little to indicate they might be back.

But Tarpley and Steed did what players at Lipan do, they got better so they can continue the tradition of success. Steed was coming off a season in which he was the District 11-2A Newcomer of the Year, while Tarpley was honorable mention all-district.

And Saturday, both played key roles in continuing that tradition. Along with Tarpley’s performance, Steed scored five points, grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and blocked a shot.

“If you saw where we were back in the summer,” Coach Gaylor said with a smile. “But they kept putting in the work. We kept tinkering”

Court Gaylor added, “Expectations are to get down here every year,” noting that once the players began to believe in themselves everything else fell into place.

The result was a 21-game winning streak to end the season and another championship.

Class 2A Boys State Basketball Championship

Lipan 47, Shelbyville 36

Shelbyville (29-8)        3         12        12          9 - 36

Lipan (36-4)                10          7        15        15 - 47

Lipan scoring: Court Gaylor 23, Payton Corneilus 7, Alberto Andreatta 6, Tyson Tarpley 6, Darius Steed 5.

Lipan 3-pointers: Gaylor 5, Cornelius 2, Tarpley 2, Steed 1.

Lipan rebound leaders: Steed 9, Andreatta 6.

Lipan assist leaders: Tarpley 6, Cornelius 3.

Lipan steals leader: Gaylor 3.

Lipan blocks leader: Gaylor 3.

Team statistics

2-point field goals: Lipan 6-18, 33%; Shelbyville 13-28, 46%.

3-point field goals: Lipan 10-25, 40%; Shelbyville 2-17, 12%.

Free throws: Lipan 5-8, 63%; Shelbyville 4-6, 67%.

Rebounds: Lipan 31 (9 offensive), Shelbyville 28 (9 offensive).

Assists: Lipan 12, Shelbyville 5.

Steals: Lipan 4, Shelbyville 4.

Blocks: Lipan 6, Shelbyville 6.

Turnovers: Lipan 5, Shelbyville 7.

Points from turnovers: Lipan 13, Shelbyville 5.

Points in the paint: Lipan 12, Shelbyville 12.

Second-chance points: Lipan 0, Shelbyville 8.

Fast-break points: Lipan 11, Shelbyville 5.

Bench points: Lipan 0, Shelbyville 5.

Biggest lead: Lipan 13, Shelbyville 2.

Biggest scoring run: Lipan 8, Shelbyville 8.

Lead changes 6.

Times tied 3.

Time with lead: Lipan 28:08, Shelbyville 1:53.