It was the third-closest decision for Homestead all season and the first time the Spartans found themselves needing to rally in the second half. But, the Spartans were able to come back to complete the impossible — finishing an undefeated season in Indiana high school basketball.
“I have a lot of respect for their program and Coach Beasley,” Homestead Head Coach Chris Johnson said after the Spartans’ 55-50 win at Carroll for the Summit Athletic Conference title Friday. “He does a great job. They were down a few players, but they play hard. They made it to where it was an ugly game with a lot of fouls being called and hand-checking, but our kids hung in there and were able to overcome a tough first half to where we were able to get some points on the board in the second half.”
Despite a 9-0 Carroll run in the second quarter Friday, the Spartans managed to overcome at the free throw line and even stave off a late Carroll drive that made it a one-point game with just a few minutes left on the clock.
The No. 1 state-ranked Spartans finished their regular season with a 22-0 record, giving Carroll (15-4) its first loss in conference play this year.
“We knew it was going to be a tough battle, but they were able to overcome some adversity in the first half where for probably the first time all year we were behind, so a lot of credit goes to Coach Beasley and their ball club with what they came out to do, especially in the first half,” Johnson said.
Carroll kept Homestead within reach through the first half of the first quarter before the Spartans began to pull away with an onslaught of 3-pointers, including one by Grant Simmons and a pair by fellow senior and Illinois commit Luke Goode on back-to-back possessions. The Spartans led 15-8 after the first eight minutes of play.
Carroll’s Jalen Jackson scored nine of Carroll’s first 12 points in the second quarter, including a three to narrow the Spartans’ lead to three. That continued into a 9-point run, giving the Chargers a three-point lead, 26-23. Carroll’s Logan Lankenau scored the final bucket of the half to boost that lead to four, 28-24, going into the locker room.
Jackson finished the half with 15 points and seven boards to lead all scorers through the first two quarters.
“We found a little set that kind of worked a little bit,” Carroll Head Coach Marty Beasley said. “We got some good looks out of it and just kept running it until we couldn’t guard anymore, so it worked pretty well for us.”
The Spartans tied it up in the first minute and a half of the third quarter thanks to an and-one by Goode before both teams went scoreless for more than a quarter of the period. Carroll’s Cody Burkey finally ended the silence with a three to give Carroll the lead once again. Goode responded with four straight points to give Homestead its first lead since the second quarter, and the Spartans managed to outscore Carroll 4-2 through the remainder of the third to lead 39-35.
Although the Spartans were able to briefly extend their lead to six in the fourth quarter, the Chargers had answers early and often, including back-to-back buckets by Jackson and Sam Strycker to make it a two-point game, and a three by Charlie Rudolph to narrow it to one with just three minutes left to play. Despite the rally, another three by Goode gave Homestead enough of a lead to play keep-away while running off the clock. Purdue commit Fletcher Loyer helped seal the win with a 9-of-10 performance at the free throw line in the final quarter, capping off a 93% run at the charity stripe this season.
“Our kids have a lot of heart, a lot of resilience, a lot of toughness,” Beasley said of his Chargers. “They weren’t perfect by any means, but they competed and did what they had to do to stay in the game and give ourselves a chance. It kind of came down to where they were in the bonus pretty early and we’re not in the bonus, so free throws were a major difference in the game. … They had 14 in the second half, and we had four. That’s a huge difference right there, but I’m proud of our kids. I thought they were pretty gutsy tonight.”
It was the first time Homestead defeated Carroll since 2019 — that game being decided by just three points and netting both teams a share of the conference title alongside Northrop.
“They left a bad taste in our mouths from last year,” Goode said. “We lost to them at home for the conference championship, and we kind of had a chip on our shoulder this season.”
Last season, the Chargers defeated the Spartans 61-53 for the SAC title.
“Four of the six years we’ve been in the conference, this game determines it,” Beasley said. “It would’ve been nice if the ball could have bounced our way a couple more times, but congrats to them. They’re a great team, well coached and they do what they need to win.”
Loyer finished the game with 23 points to lead all scorers, while Jackson and Goode each earned double-doubles on the night. Jackson put up 22 points and 11 rebounds for Carroll, while Goode had 20 points and 11 boards for Homestead. The Spartans made 17-of-20 free throws, including 15-of-16 by Loyer.
“It’s very difficult what these kids accomplished, and all the credit goes to these young men,” Johnson said of the Spartans’ undefeated season. “They come out, they play hard each and every day and they compete against each other in practice. I’m very proud of this group of kids. The regular season is just that — it’s the regular season — but now the real season starts as far as the tournament.”
For Beasley, Carroll’s biggest focus will be getting healthy ahead of sectionals, with senior Cam Hedgecock playing just 16 minutes Friday and freshman Hansen Haffner and junior Keegan Rhoad each putting in the most minutes of any game they’ve played in so far this season.
“We’ve got Ryan Preston and Zach Castator out and we’re going to get them back next week, we think, so we’ve just got to get healthy,” Beasley said. “If we can get healthy and play that way, we’re going to be OK.”