NOBLESVILLE — In honor of the 110th Indiana High School Basketball State Tournament Zionsville and Fishers decided to play a game that would have been right at home in the early days of the 20th century.
The pair met in the opening game of the IHSAA Class 4A Noblesville sectional and every point was hard-earned on both ends of the floor.
In the end, it was Zionsville that found the precious offense it needed.
Jackson Hughes banked in a jumper as time expired and the Eagles reversed a regular season loss to the Tigers with a 23-21 final score that is, most definitely, not a typo.
“Right when I got the final look it felt good,” said Hughes, who scored the game’s first basket and its final basket. “It is one of those thing I have been dreaming of since I was a kid. Sectional basketball in Indiana is the best it can be.”
Hughes’ basket capped off a wild final minute where Fishers appeared to have the game in hand.
The Tigers led 21-20 Dominic Castellani hit a 3-pointer with 5:01 left. The Eagles (16-9) then turned the ball over and Fishers was content to play conservative.
Zionsville had to commit four fouls to get into the bonus, but with 45 seconds left before the Eagles could get the seventh foul to send Fishers to the free throw line they forced a turnover.
Zionsville worked the ball to Anthony Scales, who drove the baseline into a double team and drew a foul with 36.5 seconds left.
He hit the first free throw but missed the second to give Fishers (18-7) a shot at the win. The Tigers committed an offensive foul, however, given Zionsville possession with roughly 12 seconds left and setting up Hughes’ heroics.
“Credit to these guys: most kids wouldn’t want to play a game like this,” said Zionsville coach Shaun Busick. “It’s dumb. It’s boring. They would rather score points. The bottom line is that this time of year, you have to win and it’s got to be a grind. Fortunately, throughout the season we have had a lot of grinding games and beaten good teams. Credit to our kids though. They executed extremely well.”
Despite the final score this was not a game where either team purposefully stalled the basketball.
Both teams played extremely tight defense throughout and denied any easy opportunities to score. Fishers forced 18 turnovers while Zionsville blocked seven shots and held the Tigers to 8 of 27 shooting from the field.
Fishers was able to creep ahead 7-4 at the end of one quarters and led 12-10 at halftime after Lucas Prewitt connected on a three-pointer with 4 seconds left.
Alex Szilagyi hit a three two minutes into the second half to give the Tigers their largest lead at 15-10, but Zionsville scored the next five points on a basket from Gunnar Vanatta and hoop-and-harm three-point play from Anthony Scales to tie it at 15-15.
Szilagyi had his own hoop-and-harm 3-point play with 2:00 minutes left in the third, but Scales scored at the third quarter buzzer to make it 18-17 Fishers entering the final period.
Zionsville was able to tie it at 18-18 on a Vanatta free throw with 6:54 left, then the Eagles took a 20-18 lead on a basket inside from Scales with 5:18 left.
The lead was short lived, however, as Castellani hit his three just 16 seconds later, but it would be the final points for the Tigers and the final points for either team until Scales’ free throw with 36.5 seconds left.
“Fishers is as good of a defensive man-to-man team as there is and when our zone is running we’re as good of a zone team so it was a great clash of styles,” said Busick. “We wanted to keep Szilagyi and Simmons in check and they combined for 10 points. That’s 24 points under their average and that was our goal.
The win came just 10 days after Fishers won at Zionsville on senior day 58-39.
The Eagles will now get a chance to avenge another regular season loss as Friday night they will face Westfield in the semifinals.
The Shamrocks won the regular season meeting 56-49 in double overtime on December 6.