INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Oscar Robertson, Jamal Harris – two names that will forever be synonymous with Crispus Attucks basketball.
Before Robertson was known as the “Big O” he was the centerpiece to Crispus Attucks’ 1955 and 1956 state championship teams. And after this evening, Harris will forever be remembered for hitting the game-winning shot in the 2017 class 3A state title game that gave the Tigers their first state championship since 1959 – the last year the Tigers played for a state title.
“That was a great game. There were a lot of ups and downs throughout the game,” Crispus Attucks coach Chris Hawkins said. “(I’m) Just really excited and glad that our kids can experience this and start their own legacy at Crispus Attucks.”
The magnitude of Saturday night’s class 3A state title game between No.6 Twin Lakes and Crispus Attucks was hard to ignore.
Twin Lakes was making its first state championship appearance in school history, its fans packed into sections as high as the balcony level at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. And along the baseline sat Robertson and fellow members of the 1955, 1956 and 1959 state champion Crispus Attucks Tigers.
Each team lived in the moment, rising to the occasion. Spectacular effort, back-and-forth scoring – the only bad thing about this game was the fact that one of the two teams had to walk away forever labeled as “runner-up.”
With five seconds remaining and the entire crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on its feet, Crispus Attucks’ Alex Cooley attempted a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim to the left of the goal. With .9 seconds remaining, Harris outmuscled a Twin Lakes defender for the rebound and made the put-back that gave the Tigers the class 3A crown.
“I saw the point guard coming out of the paint and it looked like the perfect angle for me to go and get the rebound,” Harris said. “So I went up and tipped it back in and it just didn’t feel real after that.”
When Crispus Attucks took the stage at center court to receive its first place medals and the class3A championship trophy, it was Robertson who placed the medals on each player as his fellow Tigers from the 1950s championship teams smiled proudly from beside the stage.
Harris finished with four points, Nike Sibande scored 23 and grabbed eight rebounds and Cooley finished with 11.
The Indians outrebounded the Tigers 30-24 and outscored them in the paint 36 to 18. Twin Lakes trailed by three at halftime and opened up the third quarter with a 9-0 run. The Indians led by as many as seven in the second half, however neither was ever able to do enough to add to their respective leads, keeping the game just close enough to set up the thrilling ending. Trailing by one with less than a minute to play, Twin Lakes’ Bryce Bennington missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw attempt. Bennington made the second free throw attempt to tie the game at 71. After the Tigers go-ahead put-back, Twin Lakes tried a full-court-inbound play but failed to get a shot off with .9 seconds remaining. Bennington finished with 32 points – fourth most all-time in a class 3A championship game. Bryce’s brother, Blake Bennington, finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“I told them that there was good news. Oscar (Robertson) wasn’t playing tonight. Again though, they didn’t need Oscar because they are so darn good,” Twin Lakes coach Kent Adams said. “It’s a tough way to lose but as I told these guys, we didn’t lose. Attucks won. Their history is outstanding and just very, very rich. But their coach Chris will tell you, this is a different team and a different time.”