For so many reasons, the Spiece Indy Heat 2015 squad badly wanted a win in Sunday’s Adidas May Classic final.
Spiece coach Jim Reamer had never won a May Classic title straight up as a coach, losing one title game and winning another by forfeit with previous teams.
This particular group of Spiece players had lost to the loaded Indiana Elite squad they were facing four times, with the most recent coming last weekend when it was handled at the Run-N-Slam All-Star Classic semifinals in Fort Wayne before Elite claimed the 16 and under title in that tournament. Winning that tournament earned Elite the nation’s No. 1 ranking among 16-and-under summer travel teams according to Five-Star basketball.
So when the Spiece players got to hoist the 16-and-under championship plaque after a 77-67 win over Elite at the Twin Lakes Recreation Center in the finals of a tournament Elite hosts, they relished it.
“It’s been three long years,” said Bronson Kessinger, a rising junior at Corydon Central High School. “The first time I was with Spiece they beat us three times one year. Didn’t get to play them last year, and they beat us up at Spiece at our place. To come down and beat them in their tournament was pretty huge.”
Said guard K.J. Walton of Brownsburg: “It felt great because we haven’t beat them for a long time. It felt great to get the monkey off our back and actually get a win out here. … It was probably just our mindset. We had lost so much so we thought we were going to keep losing (in previous games.) But we knew we could beat them coming in.”
Elite’s 16 and under team is intimidating for a number of reasons. Spiece is built of mostly fringe high-major prospects including Walton and Kessinger, who have received interest from Indiana and other Big Ten schools but so far have one scholarship combined — from Xavier to Walton. Indiana Elite guards Jalen Coleman and Hyron Edwards have at least 10 combined and both have held offers from Indiana for close to a year. Elite won several major tournaments as a 15-and-under squad last year and last week’s title in Fort Wayne seemed to portend more from this year.
But Spiece wiped away any of the Elite mystique with a barrage of outside shots in the second half of Sunday’s game. Spiece shot 25-for-52 (48 percent) from the field and 7-for-12 from beyond the 3-point arc with Kessinger leading the way. The 6-foot-6 swingman hit on nine of his 12 field goal attempts and two of his three 3-pointers for 22 points. One of those 3’s came as part of a 13-4 run that crossed over the halftime break, giving Spiece a lead after it trailed by seven.
“If I was open, I was just gonna shoot it,” Kessinger said.
That, Reamer said, is the kind of play colleges are hoping to see from him. He’s hearing from Belmont, Butler, Indiana, Louisville, Michigan, Missouri, Stanford, Vanderbilt, and Xavier among others, but none of them have offered him a scholarship yet, Reamer said, because he hasn’t yet defined his position.
He’s played inside most of his career, but doesn’t have to do that at the college level. Those teams will be much more likely to offer if he shows he can be a true small forward or at least a stretch power forward with a reliable jumper and a perimeter handle.
“If he can get to a position where that’s a consistent shot for him, it changes things for him,” Reamer said. “Even if anybody questions what position he is, they can’t question that he can hit that shot. Can somebody use him as a stretch four who’s athletic enough to rebound, who’s athletic enough to defend? If he can end up defending multiple positions, now all of the sudden he becomes a combo forward instead of somebody that maybe gets viewed at the high-major level as a tweener. The difference between those two can be a very fine line.”
Once Spiece grabbed a lead, they kept hit by hitting 20 of 25 free throws and defended brilliantly, attacking Elite’s ball-handlers while also packing the paint. Coleman scored 12 points for Elite and Edwards had 11, but that wasn’t enough. Walton hit all 12 of his free throws in the second half to finish with 22 points while guard Chris Nunn was 6-for-7 from the line with 12 points.
Indiana Elite did manage a title in the tournament, with its 15-and-under squad winning the tournament with a 79-62 win over Wisconsin Playground. Nai Carlisle of West Lafayette led Elite with 17 points while South’s Tucker Blackwell had 16. D.J. Wilkins of Merrillville had 15 and Anthony Murphy of Griffith had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Elite improved to a perfect 30-0 so far this season.
Elite was playing without starting guard C.J. Hedgepeth of Evansville North and Tremell Murphy of Griffith, both of whom suffered injuries during the tournament. It didn’t matter much.
“That team’s resilient,” coach Mark Adams said. “They’re deep and they just played really well together. … We’ve got a lot of depth, a lot of height and we can shoot. There’s possibly a half-dozen high-major players on this team.”
Spiece Indy Ice, a group of mostly underrecruited Indianapolis players, claimed the 17-and-under title, defeating the Eric Gordon All-Stars 72-62 in the finals. Jordan Garnett of Warren Central led Spiece with 18 points and eight rebounds. Daeshon Francis of Lawrence North had 17, C.J. Coleman of Mount Vernon scored 16 and Kendall Rollins of Pike had 15.
“They just battled,” coach LaSalle Thompson said. “We have a lot of guys that have kind of gone under the radar for years. They all play with a chip on their shoulder, but the thing is, they do it together.”