By Jeff Robison
INDIANAPOLIS — INDIANAPOLIS — The Avon Orioles came ready to challenge the Class 4A fifth-ranked Pike Red Devils in their semifinal contest in IHSAA Sectional 11 on Friday night. But the Orioles had their season slip away after an intentional foul call helped erase the Orioles’ first-half lead, and led to the Red Devils pulling through for a 75-62 victory at Decatur Central High School.
With less than three minutes left in the first half, Avon found itself leading Pike 27-20, and dictating things with an early rebounding advantage.
However, Pike’s Zavier Turner made a steal, and trailing Avon defender Ryan Ruff was cited for an intentional foul. From there, the Orioles were held scoreless the rest of the half, while Pike took a firm hold on the momentum and finished the half on a 10-0 run.
“That was big — it was the momentum,” Avon coach Jason Young said. “We shot ourselves in the foot and turned it over. In that situation, you probably ought to let a guy go. But an intentional foul is not usually called when a guy hits ball and arm.”
That foul proved a moment that the Orioles never recovered from.
“We had a chance to be up double digits going into the half,” Young said. “But we gave up some key turnovers and gave up some offensive rebounds. It was very disappointing to be down at the half.”
Instead the pace of game favored the Red Devils the rest of the way.
Pike, blessed with speed, used a quicker tempo to help draw most of Avon’s 21 turnovers and 31 team fouls.
“(Pike) got out in the passing lanes, pressured the basketball, and took us out of what we wanted to do,” Young said. “We really needed to get the ball into the paint and get to the free-throw line, and we just were not able to do that.”
That speed took even more of a toll. Ultimately four Orioles fouled out while Pike cashed in for 30 points out of 45 free-throw attempts.
The Red Devils really hit their stride in the fourth quarter as a seven-point lead at the quarter break (45-38) ballooned to 19 points (62-43) in just over four minutes.
Pike’s top three scorers — Taishaun Johnson, Jordan Pickett (16 points), and Turner (14 points) — all tallied most of their points after halftime. Johnson led all scorers with 22 points.
Avon’s top scorers — Conner Funkhouser (18 points) and Carter VanWanzeele (17 points) — got most of their points after the break, too, but some of those came after Pike had secured its lead in the final quarter. Senior Aaron Bode registered 11 points in his final game.
Young made one final take on his 2012-13 Orioles, a group that will lose seniors Bode, Jordan Rhodes, and Justin Hubbard.
“Our kids really competed, and it was a fun group to coach,” Young said. “Our seniors are straight A students and first-class kids. They were great role models, and I hope our underclassmen take note of their examples.”
Avon closed the year with a 10-12 record.