By Travis Miller
CARMEL – Just like two seasons ago, Kokomo’s undefeated boys basketball season ended in Carmel’s Eric Clark Gym.
While the Kats recovered to go on to the State Finals after the loss two seasons ago, it remains to be seen what Kokomo will do after Saturday’s 54-46 loss at the Class 4A No. 4-rated Greyhounds.
“Give Carmel a lot of credit. They are a very good ballclub and Michael Volovic is a tough player,” said Kokomo coach Brian McCauley. “They set a lot of ball screens for him and he was able to get over and get to both the basket and the free throw line.”
Volovic, who played a big role in Carmel’s 52-48 win over Kokomo in last season’s Class 4A Marion Regional, led the Greyhounds with 22 points and five assists while his brother James had 10 more points, seven of them coming in the critical fourth quarter.
To start it was guard Ryan Cline who did most of the damage for Carmel. Cline connected three times from 3-point in the first quarter to give Carmel a 15-13 lead after one quarter. Kokomo was able to take its first lead of the weekend in regulation with consecutive baskets by LaBradford Sebree and Tayler Persons to start the second quarter.
The No. 6-ranked Wildkats (12-1) would push the lead to four at 24-20, but a hoop-and-harm three-point play by James Volovic cut into the lead with 1:58 left. Michael Volovic would then put Carmel in front for good at 25-24 with just over a minute left in the first half.
“We really battled [Saturday] night. We out-rebounded them and kept our turnovers down, but it was our offensive consistency that struggled,” said McCauley. “We showed a lot of toughness [Saturday] night though. Unfortunately it came down to them shooting a little bit better than us.”
Carmel (10-1) led by as much as nine at 40-31 after a 7-0 run in the middle of the third quarter, but Kokomo answered with nine straight points from Sebree, Persons, and Erik Bowen. Bowen made a terrific cut to the basket with 5:44 left to tie the game at 40-40.
The Greyhounds were able to answer, however. Michael Volovic hit a pair of free throws. With 5:09 left and Cline added his fourth 3-pointer of the night with 3:56 left to make it 45-40. After the teams traded baskets Kokomo had one last run in itself.
Bowen would score with 2:32 left on another cut and Sebree scored 17 seconds later when Kokomo got a steal and a breakaway at midcourt. Sebree’s basket made it 47-46 with 2:15 left, but that is the last time Kokomo would score.
Carmel scored the final seven points of the ballgame as Kokomo barely missed two very good looks from three in the final 90 seconds. Michael Volovic scored five of the final seven. The Greyhounds enjoyed 8 of 9 free throw shooting while Kokomo was just 3 of 7. Carmel also connected eight times from 3-point range compared just three from Kokomo.
“We were right there with one or two possessions,” said McCauley. “I know Erik had a chance to give us the lead with a three when we were down one and it just missed. Carmel is a very disciplined team that does not beat itself so I am glad we were able to attack at the end.”
Kokomo was led by Persons and Sebree each with 17 points. Mykal Cox was big in their success with five assists off the bench.