The wait was worth it. Unbelievably so.
The 2021-2022 Cathedral High School boys basketball team won the Class 4A state title, capping perhaps the most historic season in program history in convincing – and fitting – fashion.
It was a state-title game that capped a memorable, hard-earned season.
It was a state-championship season that capped a long, memorable journey.
It was, as Jason Delaney put it, “surreal.”
“That was the feeling we all had: ‘Did this just really happen?’’’ said Delaney, now 115-35 in six seasons as Irish boys basketball coach, with five previous seasons featuring multiple state-ranked teams without a deep postseason run. “After going through those five previous years, you’re finally state champions.
“It’s a surreal moment. It all comes full circle.”
The Irish (26-6), who became the first private school to win the Indiana Class 4A state title, beat previously unbeaten Chesterton in the state title game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The tournament-tested Irish took an early lead en route to a 65-31 victory.
It was the first Class 4A state boys basketball title in school history. The Irish won the Class 3A state title in 1998 and had won one sectional since – in 2013.
“We don’t come here to mediocre,” Delaney said. “We came here with big goals to be the first to do something. We embraced that.”
The 2021-2022 Irish were led by seven seniors that included point guard Tayshawn Comer, a team leader for four seasons and one of the state of Indiana’s top players. He will play collegiately at Eastern Kentucky.
“He’s been everything you ever would want your star player to be,” Delaney said of Comer, who averaged 16.2 points per game and 6.2 assists as a senior – and who finished his career as the leading scorer in program history.
Senior Jaxon Edwards averaged 10.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. One of the state’s most explosive players, he decommitted from Murray State following a coaching change at the school.
Senior Jaiden Maclahi averaged 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds, with Luke Hern, Gabe Rodriguez and Jarren Conway key leaders – and manager Thomas McDonald playing a key role.
“Those seven seniors are going to be missed,” Delaney said. “They leave a legacy of greatness behind them.”
Junior Jaren Tibbs also keyed the Irish in 2021-2022 with 13.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, with junior Jake Davis averaging 10.2 pounds and 4.7 rebounds. Junior Xavier Booker averaged 12.5 points and 6.7 rebounds and junior Sincere Germany averaged 4.7 points and 1.6 rebounds.
“There’s a lot of emotions,” Delaney said. “There’s definitely excitement. There’s relief that it’s over. But there’s sadness as well. For this group, it’s the last time we’ll be together with the seniors we have. You’ve worked so hard for months and months, then it comes to a screeching end. That’s the sad part.”
The Irish peaked in the postseason, winning their final nine games. They beat Lawrence North, 63-49, to win a long-elusive sectional title, after sectional victories over North Central (74-68) and Arsenal Tech (69-54). They then beat Ben Davis – a team that beat the Irish late in the regular season – 72-57 in the regional final.
They then beat Bloomington North, 61-55, in the semistate – a game Bloomington North entered on a 17-game winning streak.
“It was the hardest path we could have had,” Delaney said.
Tibbs led the Irish with 15 points in the title game, with Edwards adding 14 and Comer adding 11. Booker had 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds. The Irish took a 10-0 lead, led 22-10 after a quarter and 36-21 at halftime.
“From Day One, that’s what we talked about,” Delaney said. “We truly felt we were the most talented team and if we were to get knocked out, it would be our own doing – that we would just play awful or not play together. You want your best game to be our last game.
“I truly feel our best game of the year was our last game of the year.”
Paying dividends, too: The Irish’s long-standing approach of playing a difficult regular-season schedules.
“We tried to test ourselves in every way,” Delaney said. “We wanted to be tested mentally, physically and spiritually. We wanted to have to respond in difficult situations. We tried to do that to prepare ourselves for the sectional. We got through the sectional, and I ultimately believed it showed up in the championship game.
“Chesterton’s a really good team – well-coached and a great program – but for us at that point, a hard game every game had become routine.”
Delaney said the championship was about the recent past as much as the present, with front-line players from previous Cathedral teams attending the title game.
“It all came full circle,” Delaney said. “We had some good records those five previous years. Those guys built a foundation. These guys had felt the heartbreak. From Day 1, we talked about pressure as a privilege. It’s an opportunity to be great.
“Greatness is calling has been our motto for the last two years.”
Delaney said that’s something he expects to keep calling. The Cathedral junior varsity went 18-3 in 2021-2022 and won the City title with the freshman team finishing 17-4 with a City title.
“We feel like we’re just getting started,” Delaney said. “We felt like once we got that championship in our blood, anything less won’t be accepted anymore. Guys will always want to achieve that level.”