DELTA WINS TITLE ON LATE SHOT; WAPAHANI, COWAN ALSO SECTIONAL CHAMPS
By DOUG ZALESKI
A half-hour after Conner Bedwell hoisted the Class 3A New Castle boys basketball sectional championship trophy, after he posed for team and individual pictures with fans, after he helped cut down the nets, after he went into the stands and celebrated with his family, the Delta senior guard made an admission after making the winning shot.
“I was not able to see the rim,” he said.
Bedwell dodged a defender on a drive through the lane late in Saturday’s game against Hamilton Heights. His eyes were turned away from the rim when he chucked the ball over his head on a reverse layup. He tumbled to the floor and didn’t see the ball bounce off the backboard. After sprawling on the baseline and glancing back just in time, he saw the ball trickle through the net with 27 seconds left to put the Eagles ahead by a point.
The field goal gave Delta a 42-41 victory in Chrysler Fieldhouse, delivering the second straight sectional title for the Eagles while giving Mark Detweiler his milestone 300th coaching victory.
The play capped a furious rally for the Eagles (20-4) in a physical battle against Hamilton Heights (16-9), a team they beat 44-26 in mid-December. Delta trailed by five points after three quarters in the rematch and was down by three points with 58 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles tied the score 40-40 when Brady Hunt hit a 3-point shot with 58 seconds to go. On that play, Bedwell drove through the lane, kicked the ball to the wing to Sam Cox, who found Hunt for the assist on the basket.
“It was supposed to be a pick-and-pop but (Bedwell) ended up driving farther and kicked it out to Sam, and then back to me,” Hunt said. “I knew I had space, and I let it fly.”
The tie lasted seven seconds as Hamilton’s Camron Knott made 1 of 2 free throws to give the Huskies a 41-40 edge.
Almost immediately, Bedwell got the ball in the frontcourt and drove hard to the basket. He zigged to the left as he closed in on the rim. Suddenly, he turned his back to the basket and tossed the ball at the backboard with his right hand. A clean bounce into the net gave Delta the lead as Hamilton Heights called time out.
“I got turned around a little bit, but I had the rim on my mind and I threw it up,” Bedwell explained. “I saw the rim (on the drive), but then I spun and lost sight of it. I knew about where it was.
“When I was on the ground, I saw the ball go through the net. It was absolutely amazing. I got goosebumps. I knew we had to get one more stop, and it was the greatest feeling in the world.”
Bedwell said the awkward looking shot was developed during games of H-O-R-S-E with his brother and friends. The different types of layups they would take were called “jelly” - a fancy layup.
Detweiler said Bedwell simply has a knack for finishing shots around the rim, despite being shorter than most post players.
“When he’s able to get downhill, he’s as good as I’ve coached in my years doing this at finishing around the basket,” Detweiler said. “What he did there amazed a lot of people in this gym, but our team will tell you they’ve seen that 100 times in practice the last couple years.
“What he does in there is unusual. We don’t have to draw things up for him. He can just go out and make a play.”
Hunt, who scored a game-high 19 points, was glad to see it.
“Sometimes shots just go in and it’s your night … and tonight was his night,” Hunt said. “It was a bit of a circus shot, but whatever works.”
Bedwell was ultra-competitive throughout the game. Besides scoring 15 points (13 in the second half) on a variety of drives and offensive putbacks, he aggressively attacked the boards for rebounds.
He said his mentality as a linebacker and running back for the Eagles football team spawns his aggressiveness on the basketball court. He’s also carrying something of a chip on his shoulder.
“I’m tired of (Delta) being looked down on and just being slept on,” he said. “We won a sectional championship last year, and going into this year people continued to sleep on us.
“I feel like we needed to make a statement, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Delta will take on Leo (19-7) at noon Saturday in the New Castle Regional.
OTHER SECTIONAL RESULTS
Delta was one of three Delaware County schools that won a sectional championship on Saturday night.
WAPAHANI 46, FRANKTON 43
The Raiders had a 24-10 second-quarter lead before having to rally from a small deficit late in the game against Frankton. Wapahani beat the Eagles 43-42 in late December.
Wapahani trailed 43-41 with 1:02 remaining in the sectional game when Braxton Davis hit a 3-point shot from the corner to put the Raiders ahead for good at 44-43 with 40 seconds to go.
Tre Spence led Wapahani with 15 points and Drew Luce had 13. Davis scored nine and had a game-high 10 rebounds.
Wapahani (20-5) will play Rossville (18-7) at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the Lapel Regional.
COWAN 57, DALEVILLE 22
Cowan won the second boys basketball sectional championship in school history (the first was in 1976) as it handily beat county foe Daleville.
Riley Duncan led the Blackhawks with 17 points and 16 rebounds. Beau Brown and Logan Byrd scored 12 each, and Jacob Thomas added 11. Tim Arnold led the Broncos (10-14) with 8.
Cowan (14-10) will take on Blue River (19-6) at noon Saturday in the Frankfort Regional.
NEW PALESTINE 54, CENTRAL 53
The Bearcats (11-14) were denied their first sectional championship since 2014 when they lost at home to the Dragons. KJ Jackson’s 3-point shot from the top of the key missed in the closing seconds.
Dylan Stafford led the Bearcats with 12 points. Jackson and De’Mar Woods-Haskins each scored 10.