“There’s nothing that can get better than this. I played in front of 500 fans. Here – this is like 19,000 – this, by far, is the best night of my entire life.”
The joy on Spencer Turner’s face was contagious – and quickly sprinkled throughout a thunderous Conseco Fieldhouse when the clock struck zero. Fast-tempo guard play, low-post dominance, even a little bit of luck – it took every intangible of the game to defeat R. Nelson Snider High School of Fort Wayne.
“We didn’t want to lose this game,” said Bloomington guard Jordan Hulls. “We came this far. 25-0, we didn’t want to go out with a loss.”
But, Bloomington High School South nearly let its first state basketball trophy slip out of its hands. Its lead was cut to a mere point at the start of the 4th quarter. And with 2 minutes and 36 seconds left, Snider silenced the highly-populated South crowd when Bradley Sneary banked home a layup to put his team ahead. Just 32 seconds later, the Purple and White responded. Jacob Mulinix only cashed in 4 point, but this 2-pointer helped de-thrown Snider for good.
“It’s an honor to say you won the state championship, and our kids have played a year where they deserved it,” said JR Holmes, B.H.S.S. Coach.
“Everybody’s happy,” said forward Chaz Cooper. “The whole town is excited about it. First state championship so, of course – really, up here right now, you know, can’t be brought down.”
Cooper and his teammates were on cloud nine in the rankings. The final Coaches Association Poll and Associated Press Poll tabbed South as the best team in Indiana. Better yet, USA Today praised the Panthers, seeding them 3rd overall in the country. But Coach JR Holmes says none of those accolades were worth mentioning in his pre-game speeches or practices.
Coach Holmes says they never mentioned it. “Never one time was it mentioned what our ranking was or anything like that. Our kids, to their credit have handled it unbelievable, really.”
“We know we had to keep our head on straight,” said Hulls. “We know we were going to play a lot of great teams and we couldn’t take anything for granted, and we did that. We played well as a team and that’s rally what got us to this point is team-game. We didn’t care who got the credit and we had targets on our backs, but we ended up on top.”
Bloomington South’s season is over. But a perfect record becomes part of history.
“26-0,” said Harvey Holmes, the father of Bloomington’s head coach. “There’s just not many coaches in the state of Indiana that can say that.”
And not many coaches can say they will be enshrined in one of the Hoosier state’s meccas – the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. According to the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s website, an undefeated squad will be inducted on the 30th anniversary of its perfect season.
“Our coaches told us from day one we had a chance to be special, and indeed we did,” said Turner. “We came out and every single game we never looked at our opponent; we never underestimated them. We knew, you know, we had something special from the start and we did it. It’d the most amazing feeling ever. I know there’s tears running through my eyes and I never thought I could cry.”
Just one day after its triumphant victory, South held a pep rally and ceremony at the school’s gymnasium. And little did Holmes know, his sons on the hardwood had a big surprise.
The court dedication was another way to say thanks to the 39-year coach. Yet, JR’s father Harvey can’t get over the community support.
“I just have to appreciate the school. I appreciate the community and the support they had for my son. And, I think the good lord was with us a little bit last night to be honest with you. Never dreamed in my lifetime that I would see them win the state finals. I just didn’t think it was going to happen. I’m 83 years-old and, you know, I just didn’t think it was going to happen.”