This was a memorable era, historically so.
That made the end of the 2022-2023 Cathedral High School boys basketball season a difficult time – but also one of tremendous satisfaction.
“It’s bittersweet,” Irish boys basketball coach Jason Delaney said.
The Irish, a year after winning the first Class 4A state title in program history in 2021-2022, were again one of Indiana’s top high school basketball programs in 2022-2023. They finished 19-6 against a national schedule, won a second consecutive Section 10, Class 4A title and lost just three games to teams from Indiana.
Two of those losses were to Class 4A No. 1-ranked Ben Davis, with the second loss coming by a score of 63-53 in the Region 6, Class 4A Championship Game.
“It's a disappointing end because you feel like you have an opportunity to repeat,” Delaney said. “But that's why they say repeating is so hard to do. It was kind of an end of an era.”
The Irish, who finished 2022-2023 No. 6 in the Associated Press and Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Class 4A polls, beat Crispus Attucks 76-33 in the section title game.
They had lost to Attucks, 61-51, in the city title game.
“The teams that were in our section this year extremely talented,” Delaney said. “It was a fight. I was really, really proud of our guys, of how we responded from losing the city championship to Attucks when we got an opportunity to play them in the sectional championship.
“Our guys just had laser focus from the moment that game started.”
The Irish over the last two seasons not only won two sectional titles, they finished with a 45-12 record during that span. As Delaney sees it, it was a group that not only succeeded on the court, but succeeded in changing the culture of Irish boys basketball and establishing a foundation for the future.
“I don't think you can argue that it’s the most successful time period for Cathedral basketball,” he said. “What they've done for the program and where they leave it, what they've done for these younger guys who return, that's exciting as well.
“It’s difficult to see it end, and we thought we had an opportunity to repeat, but we just ran into a version of ourselves from a year ago. Ben Davis is so complete and they returned everything from last year. All that together, we just didn't match up well with them.”
The Irish in 2022-2023 were led by a core group of seniors, most of whom played key roles each of the last two seasons. They were:
*Xavier Booker. A Michigan State commitment and McDonald’s All-America selection, Booker averaged 15.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game as a senior. “He leaves behind a legacy of excellence,” Delaney said.
*Jared Tibbs. A Purdue football commitment who Delaney said may be the best football/basketball player in Cathedral history, Tibbs averaged 16.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game as a senior.
*Small forward Jake Davis, a Mercer commitment who averaged 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a senior and also set a state record for charges taken in a career. “He was a team-first guy who did whatever it took to be successful,” Delaney said.
*Sincere Germany, who averaged 5.4 points and 1.4 rebounds per game after moving into a starting role as a senior.
*Guard Kamari Slaughter, who averaged 8.9 points and 3.7 points per game as a senior after transferring from Portage. “To watch how he evolved and became a part of the program, how he molded himself, I have a lot of respect for that,” Delaney said.
Delaney said evidence of the strength and sustainability of Cathedral basketball – and of a strong culture being built – came throughout the season, perhaps most notably after winning a second consecutive sectional championship.
“I heard from every guy from last year's state championship team that had graduated,” Delaney said. “Some of them came back for the sectional championship. They’re still invested.”
The Irish in 2023-2024 not only will return multiple key players from this year’s varsity team, they will feature a group of improving players from a junior varsity lost just two games in 2022-2023.
Among the players expected to key the ’23-24 Irish: Sophomore guard Lebron Gough (3.8 points per game as a sophomore in ’22-23, 2.6 rebounds per game), sophomore shooting guard Deric Cannady (3.0, 2.0), junior point guard Anthony Fields (2.5, 1.5), junior Zach Meeks (3.3, 1.7) and sophomore Brady Koehler (6.4, 2.5).
“We’re extremely excited to go on with this next group,” Delaney said. “As time goes on, those will be the names, but it's going to a blue-collar group. They just play extremely, extremely hard. We’ll be able to do some other things we haven’t done in the past. We’re extremely excited. The style of play may change a little bit, but it’s going to be a bunch of hardworking guys and that’s fun.
“We're really, really excited about what's coming back.”