- Associated Press - Saturday, March 29, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A season on the brink became a season to remember for the Indianapolis Arsenal Tech boys basketball team Saturday.

The Titans finally have a boys high school basketball championship. Finally, they can claim the state’s crown in the state’s largest basketball class as their own.

Finally, after 99 years of playing basketball, the Titans are on top.

Tech outran Lake Central before having to fend off the Indians in the finals seconds to earn a 63-59 victory in the Class 4A state title game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Three players scored in double figures for Tech and the Titans secured the victory by hitting free throws when they counted.

So how heavy was the trophy and the burden of playing nearly a century without a basketball championship?

“It was a lot heavier than I thought it would be,” University of Kentucky recruit and Indiana Mr. Basketball candidate Trey Lyles said. “But I’m just happy that we have it. We made history at Tech and our legacy is going down in history. That’s all that matters.”

With Tech’s title, the Titans (27-2) became the first Indianapolis Public Schools member to win a state title since Broad Ripple claimed the 1980 state championship.

That - along with Tech’s own basketball history - is why this one didn’t come with a routine celebration. Hoisting the Class 4A state title trophy was a historic moment for Tech’s players, the fans in attendance and the alumni watching on television or listening on the radio.

After the buzzer sounded, senior guard Jason Beck performed a series of back flips near midcourt. Groups of fans danced in the stands and the players donned their “Titan Reign” shirts to signify they’d put the finishing touches on the most memorable season in school history.

But it wasn’t easy.

Tech controlled the game for the majority of three quarters. The Titans had built a 49-29 lead in the final seconds of the third quarter. But they saw their lead evaporate in the final eight minutes.

An 11-0 run by the Indians that bridged the final seconds of the third quarter and the first four minutes of the fourth quarter got Lake Central within 49-40. And by the time there were 15 seconds left in the contest, Tech was nursing a 62-59 advantage.

The blown lead by Tech was eerily similar to the way it lost a 26-point margin in its semistate victory over Bloomington North. In that game, Tech led 41-15 at one point and had to hang on to win 75-71.

But with the title - and history - on the line, Lyles stepped to the line with 10.9 seconds left and knocked down one of two free throws to give the Titans just enough to edge Lake Central (22-4) and etch their name into the record books.

On one side, the jubilation could hardly be contained. More than 30 minutes after the game ended, more than 30 city police officers, state sheriffs and arena security were still trying to push several hundred Tech fans out of the main concourse of the building. They just didn’t want to leave.

On the other, Lake Central was left wondering what might have been if the Indians hadn’t fallen behind so early.

“I wish we could take back the first half,” Lake Central senior and Butler recruit Tyler Wideman said. “We made a couple of mistakes. I’d like to take it back, but I’m proud of my team for how we came back.”

Lyles finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Mikey Jones added 15 points and nine rebounds for Tech. And senior guard Jeremie Tyler had a team-best 19 points.

Tye Wilburn had a game high 20 points for Lake Central. Wideman finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds in his final prep contest.

Tech coach Jason Delaney became the seventh coach to win a state title with two different schools. He also won the 2004 state championship as coach at Waldron.

“When I came in, Tech basketball wasn’t very good,” Delaney said. “These kids believed in me. The first time I ever met with them I told them, ‘We’ll win a state championship in the next three years.’ I believed it then, I believed it up to this game.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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