It might not have been a perfect game for the Homestead Spartans, but the No. 1 team in the state retook the lead in the second half to beat archrival Carroll 55-50, clinch the SAC title and finish the regular season with a 22-0 record.
“It's very difficult, what these kids accomplished,” coach Chris Johnson said. “I'm very proud of this group of kids. And the regular season, it's just that, the regular season. Now the real season starts, as far as the tournament. And our goal is to go very far.”
Five different Homestead players scored in the first quarter, including senior forward Luke Goode, who hit two 3-pointers, and the Spartans (22-0, 9-0 SAC) led the Chargers (15-5, 8-1 SAC) 15-8.
That lead grew to 21-12 in the second quarter, but then Carroll junior guard Jalen Jackson hit five of seven shots for 11 points. Carroll senior guard Cody Burkey also hit two shots, including a 3-pointer, to ignite a 14-2 run that gave the Chargers a 26-23 advantage. Carroll led 28-24 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Goode tied the game at 29 with an old-fashioned three-point play, then converted three offensive rebounds into baskets for a 35-33 lead.
“One of our halftime adjustments was to crash the boards more and go get rebounds, because they were doing a great job boxing out on offense, and they were doing a good job of getting rebounds on their offensive side,” Goode said. “We knew we needed to get on the boards, and I took it upon myself to go get the basketball. That's what I do.”
The Chargers tied the game again with a basket by senior forward Sam Strycker, but Homestead junior guard Fletcher Loyer had a bucket and made two free throws to give the Spartans a 39-35 advantage going into the final quarter.
Loyer took 10 foul shots in the fourth quarter, making nine of them (he was 15 of 16 for the game).
“We knew, seeing they were in the bonus, that we had to attack and get their good players in foul trouble,” Loyer said.
Carroll sophomore guard Charlie Rudolph hit a 3-pointer that cut the Homestead lead to 47-46, but Goode immediately responded with an off-kilter 3-pointer of his own to put the Spartans back up by four points.
Loyer led all scorers with 23 points, and Goode scored 20.
Jackson scored 22 points for the Chargers and also had a team-high 11 rebounds. Burkey scored 13 points.