KNIGHTSTOWN – Shenandoah’s fifth straight Henry County boys basketball championship never was in doubt Saturday night.
The Raiders scored the game’s first nine points and maintained a double-digit lead throughout the final three quarters en route to a 69-42 victory against Blue River Valley.
But, no matter how much success the program enjoys, days like these are never taken for granted in Middletown.
“There’s an old saying about success breeds success,” Shenandoah coach Dave McCollough said. “You’ve gotta learn how to get over the hump, and I think we’ve gotten over that hump here in the last several years. This team has got chemistry, good camaraderie. They get along well, and that makes a big difference.”
The Raiders’ off-court kinship is mirrored on the floor.
Three players scored in double figures against the Vikings (7-4), and Shenandoah (9-1) doled out 16 assists on 27 field goals.
Andrew Bennett led the way with eight helpers, and added 15 points, six rebounds and three steals in a typical stat-stuffing performance. But he wasn’t even named to the all-county team.
That honor was reserved for Jake Kinsey – who had 15 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal in the title tilt – and Kam Graddy, a first-year starter as a junior who scored eight points, pulled down three rebounds and blocked a pair of shots against BRV.
Kaden McCollough led the Raiders in scoring with 17 points, and Jackson Campbell finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
None of them cared who got the credit.
“We have a great bond between all of us,” Graddy said. “We are not selfish at all.”
But they are consistent winners.
McCollough hasn’t lost a Henry County tournament game during his five seasons as head coach, and last year he led the Raiders to their first regional championsbip in 18 years.
The goal is to build off that success this season and make an appearance at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the state finals in March.
But Shenandoah understands the process can’t be rushed.
Saturday was a solid first step. The Raiders surrendered just one field goal in the first quarter and led 20-7 at the end of the period. A late basket by Andrew Froedge, who led the Vikings with 15 points, trimmed the halftime deficit to 31-19. But Shenandoah still lead comfortably, 47-30, entering the final period.
There was a concerted effort to meet BRV’s energy early in the contest and not allow the underdogs a window to gain momentum.
The Raiders, ranked No. 2 in Class 2A, know they’ll get the opponent’s best shot every night. That’s only more true when a trophy is scheduled to be handed out at the final buzzer.
“We were really cognizant about getting off to a good start,” Coach McCollough said. “We figured they wanted to come out and get after us. So we needed to come out, set the tone and then maintain it.”
Shenandoah did just that in nearly every statistical category.
The Raiders shot 50 percent (27-of-54) from the field and turned the ball over just nine times, including twice in the first half. They were 6-of-13 from 3-point range, 9-of-12 at the free-throw line and won the rebounding battle 34-24.
Blue River Valley was held to 33.3 percent shooting (13-of-39) overall and was 5-of-17 from 3-point range.
The total team effort was epitomized for McCollough by a couple of players who normally don’t make the headlines.
“Jackson Campbell, I thought, was a beast on the boards,” he said, “and Kam Graddy just keeps getting better.”
That’s what it’s going to take for Shenandoah to reach the next level in the postseason.
Its stars have proven they can consistently produce night in and night out. The key now is to enure the supporting cast continues to improve and make consistent contributions.
And, sometimes, become stars in their own right.
The Raiders have had their eye on Graddy, in particular, for awhile. They were hoping he’d make the leap last year as a sophomore, but he seems well on his way this season.
And his sights are set on the sport’s biggest prize.
Graddy shrugged off his all-county recognition Saturday, saying he’s just happy to contribute to the team.
But his eyes lit up when he was asked about the team’s latest title run and its goals for the immediate future.
“We just keep moving forward,” Graddy said. “We don’t really bring up the past because we didn’t get where we wanted to last year. Every time we make a mistake, we think about (the semistate loss at) Seymour and how we can get back there this year.”