By Jake Thompson
AVON — Despite a poor first half of play, the Avon Orioles boys’ basketball team took the defending state champion Carmel Greyhounds deep into the fourth quarter last night. After closing to within five of the visiting Greyhounds at 59-54 with 2:52 remaining, the Orioles could not get any closer and eventually fell, 73-63.
“The second quarter we really dug ourselves in a hole,” Avon coach Jason Young said. “We had 10 turnovers in the first half and that really put us behind the eight ball.”
Carmel jumped out to a 7-0 lead until Avon freshman Brandon Peters was fouled on his basket and completed the three-point play with 5:09 left in the first quarter.
Avon trailed 18-14 at the end of the first and had turned the ball over four times, but the Orioles’ six turnovers in the second period were costly as Carmel completed some easy transition points and led by 15 at the break.
Also hurting the Orioles was Carmel’s aggressive man-to-man defensive strategy that stymied Avon’s offensive sets.
“Carmel plays very good defense and I don’t think a lot of people recognize that immediately,” Young said.
Carmel’s starting five were the only Greyhounds to score as they are not very deep, an element that played into Avon’s favor.
“Carmel is a team that does not play very many guys and I thought we wore them down a bit there in the second half, taking the ball into the lane and to the basket,”
Down 15, Avon came out with renewed energy and attacked the basket utilizing its big men Conner Funkhouser and Aaron Bode.
Funkhouser was instrumental in Avon’s comeback, scoring 12 of his team and game-high 22 points in the second half. Bode totaled seven points on the night and the pair combined for 12 rebounds.
“(Funkhouser) is really starting to find his game here for us,” Young said. “He is dangerous from the perimeter and in the post. We rely upon him a lot to get us going.”
After closing Carmel’s lead to nine after three quarters, Avon pulled within six following Peters’ 3-pointer three minutes into the fourth. Peters would finish with 15 points.
The Greyhounds answered as Michael Volovic scored next six points as the final quarter came down to a game of runs. Avon closed the 10-point gap to five at 59-54, but Carmel surged ahead with a 4-0 run.
The Orioles simply ran out of time at the end, fouling and sending the Greyhound to the line during the last two minutes of play and Carmel closed out the game from the charity stripe.
“We did a much better job taking care of the basketball in the second half with only three turnovers,” Young said. “We made a better effort to get the ball in the post and I thought we finished in the post.
“We just sent them to the line too much in the second half. They had 24 free throws in the second half and you are not going to win a game doing that.”
Avon (4-5) now prepares for the Hendricks County tournament, travelling to Plainfield at 8 p.m. on Jan. 2 for the first round of play. The Orioles have won the last three county championships, the past two over Danville.