Boys Basketball State Champions

Posted on April 1, 2018 in Boy's Basketball, Winter Sports

2018 State Champions

INDIANAPOLIS — As Oak Hill coach Kevin Renbarger sat in the bowels of Bankers Life Fieldhouse not long after his Golden Eagles captured the Class 2A boys state basketball championship on Saturday, it was difficult for him to put in to words what exactly it meant to his team, school and community.

Renbarger grew up in Converse, graduated from Oak Hill and has been the Golden Eagles coach for 13 years. He was a fifth grader when Oak Hill won the Class A football championship in 1982, the school’s only other team state title, and started by drawing comparisons between the two.

“There is not a lot of difference in regards to what I saw in ’82 and what I saw out there,” he said when broached with the question of what it means to him and his people. “I’ve had people tell me that the crowd won’t be the same as it was at the (Huntington) semistate because its such an impersonal place, Bankers Life is, but man, it sounded like the Eagles Nest out here today.

“That’s the way Oak Hill is. It’s basketball in a lot of other places but it means something else over in Converse.”

After the on-court celebration ended for Oak Hill, Renbarger’s face told the story of the grind it’s taken the Golden Eagles to climb the peak to a championship.

No champion makes it through a season without overcoming obstacles, adversity and the pressure of having high expectations.

Oak Hill started its season ranked No. 1 in the Class 2A poll, but an early season loss at Frankton dropped them from that spot.

A exceedingly tough schedule around the turn of the calendar year left the Golden Eagles with five losses, but the purpose was to make them better, more seasoned and tougher for the postseason.

Mission accomplished.

“Just look at the numbers, we were very uncharacteristic today,” Renbarger said, referring to Oak Hill’s 3 of 14 shooting from 3-point range and going 15 of 23 from the foul line. “This team two months ago probably would have lost and probably would have lost by about 10 points.”

He mentioned the Frankton game and compared how his team was out-toughed before comparing the battle to Forest Park with it.

“Forest Park, I don’t think they did it by design, I think they did because that’s who they are. They’re very, very physical. They’re very big and very tough,” Renbarger said. “They made a concentrated effort on (Oak Hill senior Caleb Middlesworth) to double and triple team him, and I thought our kids responded exceptionally well.

“As poorly as we shot the ball, as deep of foul problems that we were in and as bad as we (shot) free throws, there’s no doubt that our toughness and being able to scrap it out is what won that basketball game for us,” he added.

Four starters each picked up two fouls in the first half, Forest Park shot 10 more free throws, but still Oak Hill led at 23-17 at the half.

Oak Hill got key contributions from a pair of seniors, Reid Newhouse and Cal Mann, along with sophomore Tahj Johnson in dealing with foul trouble.

Mann was matter of fact in describing his thought process before entering the game.

“With how things were going early, I thought I might get a shot in the first half to come and try to contribute,” Mann said. “So when I got in, I was just trying to everything I could do to make sure we brought home the blue ring.”

And Mann’s three points and three steals along with solid defense helped the Golden Eagles reach the peak.

Mann’s attitude, shared by every Oak Hill player, one of being prepared and playing with all out effort, is part of the reason the Golden Eagles are champions.

“I just had to know what my role was and what I had to do to help other people succeed,” said Newhouse, who scored two points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked a shot. “I just followed the scouting report that our coaches put together and everything worked out.”

It simply couldn’t have worked out better for Oak Hill.

“It was like next man up,” said senior David Arens, who scored 13 points and hit two of Oak Hill’s 3-pointers. “Reid stepped in and played some huge minutes for us and got some big rebounds because we were struggling in the first half. Cal had some huge steals and he was energy for us. We just got a good team win and finally got a state title to Oak Hill.”

It was fitting Oak Hill had to deal with a good bit of adversity on Saturday before it finally subdued Forest Park to win the game.

Even afterwards, smiles didn’t come easily for Renbarger, at least not as easy as it was for his players. But he sat with a sense of peace and relief while talking about the season and Saturday’s game just outside of Oak Hill’s locker room.

The win belonged to him and his team, but the joy of the accomplishment will be shared by many.

“When you’re a county school and Marion has been as successful as it has, you’re always kind of wanting to get out of the shadow,” Renbarger said. “We’ve had a lot of great teams. In my 13 years we’ve probably had three or four of the best basketball teams that Oak Hill has ever had, and we just haven’t been able to get over the hump.

“For these guys to get over the hump and win a state championship, its not just for them,” he added. “It’s for all of those basketball teams that haven’t had this opportunity so were celebrating and sharing that with them.”

2 Comments on "Boys Basketball State Champions"

  1. Janet Knight April 1, 2018 at 8:28 pm · Reply

    Congrats to the 2018 Oak Hill Golden Eagles. You make a 1964 Alumni very proud. Are there State Championship tee shirts or sweat shirts available? Please send your response to my home mailing address.
    Janet Knight
    1967 S 20th St
    Terre Haute, IN 47802

    Thank you.

    • rfagan April 2, 2018 at 10:00 am · Reply

      Yes, we will have shirts available. We will put it out on social media, website, and by email.

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