March 26, 2011

Zeller completes Hoosier sweep of state championships

If Saturday's IHSAA state championship games were any indication of what Indiana head coach Tom Crean can expect when his recruits reach Bloomington, then greener pastures are ahead for the Hoosier skipper.

Senior Cody Zeller made it a clean sweep for Hoosier fans in Conseco Fieldhouse when his Washington (24-4) team downed Culver Academies, 61-46, in the Class 3A state championship. Fellow IU commit Kevin Ferrell and his Park Tudor team won the Class 2A final against Hammond Bishop Noll, 43-42, earlier in the evening.

Despite the win, things were not easy in the first quarter of Saturday's game. Culver sent something that Zeller had not seen all tournament long-a player taller than his 6-11 frame. Former IU target Chier Ajou, a 7-1 center, was given the task of defending Zeller and it appeared to work early.

However Zeller soon found his groove and was able to tally eight points in the opening quarter. More importantly, the Washington big man garnered two quick fouls on Ajou, who would play just three minutes the remainder of the half.

In Ajou's absence, the Hatchets' offense expanded while Culver (19-7) was sent reeling for answers on defense. Washington sprinted out to a 9-0 run to begin the second quarter, forcing Ajou back into the game. However the big man wasn't in long before picking up his third foul of the half.

With Ajou back on the bench, the Hatchets continued their offensive dominance, outscoring the Eagles, 18-6, before heading to the halftime break with a 35-24 lead. Washington cruised in the closing half, extending their lead as large as 16 points before picking up the 61-46 victory.

Despite the win, the senior big man ran into physical play down on the blocks. Culver sent numerous defensive looks at Zeller, switching between hybrid zones and double teams. Still, the big man finished the game with 20 points on just 5-of-11 shooting. He made his night at the free throw line, sinking 10-of-15 shots.

He also added 18 rebounds (six offensive), two assists and two blocks in the victory.

The win marked back-to-back state championships for the Hatchets and the third of Zeller's career. The senior was also awarded the Arthur L Trester Mental Attitude Award following the game.

The victory also commemorated the end of the Zellers' careers at Washington. Hatchet fans had the opportunity to see Luke, Tyler and Cody Zeller play bring home four state championships (2005, 2008, 2010, 2011).

"I think (the Zellers) should be a special era in Indiana high school basketball," Washington head coach Gene Miller said. "While the three brothers played, we won four state championships and (around) 85-percent of their games during that 10-year stretch. It is a tremendous time in Washington basketball, that's for sure."

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