‘Win the day’

Hornets head to first boys basketball state title game

By Mark Ambrogi 

Beech Grove High School basketball coach Mike Renfro can sense the electricity in the air.

“The whole city is buzzing,” Renfro said.

That’s because the Hornets have reached the IHSAA state championship in boys basketball for the first time in the school’s history. Unranked Beech Grove (21-6) will meet Class 3A second-ranked Mishawaka Marian (24-3) at 6 p.m. March 26 in the Class 3A state championship game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

The high school boys varsity basketball team and cheerleaders celebrate the victory leading to the state championship. (Submitted photos)

The Hornets, who have won 10 consecutive games, advanced by beating fourth-ranked Sullivan 62-58 in overtime March 19 in the semi-state at Washington High School.

“We came home with a police escort and went up and down Main Street,” said Renfro, a 1995 Beech Grove graduate. “All the people in their businesses were coming out and clapping for the boys. It’s really captivated a community that, in my opinion, really needed it coming off COVID, it gives the community and city something to be proud of.”

Renfro said togetherness has been the difference for the team.

he 2022 trophy for IHSAA Boys Basketball 3A Semi-State
Champions went to Beech Grove.

“I think it’s the team chemistry and the guys really buying in,” Renfro said. “Guys figured out what their role was on the team and just played together. It sounds cliche but we got a lot of guys that selfless and just great teammates. They like each other. They’re buddies off the court. We got on a roll and we’re hot.”

Beech Grove has two seniors, starter Damon Thompkins and key reserve Damonte Henderson, and the rest of the team are juniors.

Renfro said he uses a 10-man rotation.

Geno Baker and Beech Grove High School Basketball Coach Mike Renfro celebrate the semi-state victory.

“I got five kids who come off the bench who could probably start for a lot of schools in Marion County,” Renfro said. “So when we bring guys off the bench we are not missing much and let our starters take a breather. I’ll tell them if someone is hot or rolling, those are the guys that are going to play.”

The Hornets showed their depth when leading scorer and rebounder Anthony Ball fouled out against Sullivan midway through the fourth quarter.

“Guys who don’t play as much came in and picked up the slack,” Renfro said.

Skylar Thacker, Connor Horsley, Cam Brown, Jeremiah Alexander, Logan Muffler and Damonte Henderson.

Renfro was an assistant for three years under Matt English, who died in December 2018 from brain cancer.

“Win the day” is a phrase that English often used. Renfro said he shares that philosophy with the players.

“He’s alive and well with us,” Renfro said. “He’s in my mind all the time, especially around tournament time. Every time we take the floor there is a ‘we before me’ on my whiteboard.”

Fans celebrate the Beech Grove varsity boys basketball team.

That was another phrase that English and Renfro both used.

Ball, a 6-foot-6 junior, leads the balanced Hornets attack with 15.1 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.

Junior shooting guard Jeremiah Alexander and junior Jeremiah Tate each average 9.3 points per game. Alexander averages a team-high 4.3 assists.

Beech Grove City School Superintendent Laura Hammack celebrates the basketball team’s victory by cutting the net.

Juniors Jaleel Edwards and Cam Brown each average 6.5 points.

“Jaleel Edwards has stepped his game up and led us in scoring the last two games,” Renfro said. “He’s playing the best defensively that he has all year. He’s active and brings a lot of energy to the team.”

The Hornets, who have won four consecutive sectionals, also won a regional for the first time in school history this month by beating Danville in the final.

Beech Grove played the semi-state game at the Hatchet House in Washington, Ind.

“We’re finding a way to win now,” Renfro said. “I try to play a lot of 4A schools to get us ready for the 3A tournament.”

Renfro said he is impressed by Mishawaka Marion.

“They’re very good and very well-coached,” Renfro said. “It’s going to be an evenly matched game. I think they have some really good guards with high basketball IQ. We’ll pressure them and get into our full court pressure and half-court traps and see how they react. I’ll take our guards (Alexander, Tate and Edwards) over any in the state. They play hard. They’re long, athletic and very fun to watch.”

Deaglan Sullivan leads Marian’s Knights with 17 points per game while teammate Richard Brooks is right behind with 16-point average.