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Regional champions

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Morristown head coach Scott McClelland hugs assistant coach Kevin Crim and puts a fist in the air after the Yellow Jackets won the program's first regional title since 1998 Saturday in Martinsville.
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The Morristown basketball team celebrates at Martinsville Saturday after claiming the program's first regional title since 1998. The Yellow Jackets defeated No. 2 University and No. 7 Tindley en route to the championship.
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By KRIS MILLS - kmills@shelbynews.com

MARTINSVILLE -- It did not feel like Morristown versus Indianapolis Tindley -- or Morristown versus University. In a way, it was like Shelby County was up against two of the toughest teams in Class A.

With fans from all over the area, including multiple from Waldron, Triton Central, Southwestern and Shelbyville, the Yellow Jackets had a sea of black behind them at the Martinsville Regional Saturday.

The Morristown faithful were present and accounted for. The student section was filled to the top. And the cheerleaders were leading the show. It was quite the scene inside the John. R. Wood Gymnasium.

There is something about basketball that can bring a community together. It was evident at the game and on social media, where fans from various schools sent congratulatory messages to the team.

On the court, No. 4 Morristown did its part. After hanging on for a two-point win over No. 2 University (story below), the Yellow Jackets dismantled a tough and experienced Tindley team (reigning state champs) 82-64 for the program’s first regional title in 20 years.

After the final horn sounded, a group of players and coaches surrounded Morristown head coach Scott McClelland, who lifted a fist in the air. His Yellow Jackets got the job done.

“It was just awesome. We had such a great following,” McClelland said. “The morning game was topped by the night game. There was just so many fans there. It was kind of neat to see some players from various high schools in the area just watching the game and supporting the kids. The amount we fed off that (the crowd) was important.

“More than anything, we have a chance to keep playing. Our boys have earned this. No one can say this group of kids hasn’t earned this."

Averaging over 70 points per game this season, Morristown has earned a reputation for its ability to get up and down the court. The second half against Tindley, however, the team was in another gear. And senior guard Hayden Langkabel was in the driver’s seat with his foot to the floor

Langkabel, after making the winning basket against University, finished with a season-high 46 points on 18 of 24 shooting (75 percent) against the Tigers. He added 12 rebounds and five assists in a “dominating” performance, according to McClelland.

The scoring tear helped him pass Brady Adkins for the No. 1 spot on the program’s all-time scoring list. Langkabel, who was named an IBCA/Subway Player of the Week for his performance, has now scored over 20 points in every game but four for Morristown (26-2), which topped the 1937 team for the most wins in school history with a victory in the first contest Saturday.

“We knew (Tindley) was going to press us, and we were worried about that,” Langkabel said. “We knew they would gamble a lot, too. Once we broke the press, things opened up for me. It was coming easy. There was no one around me (on certain drives) going up.”

Added McClelland: “I don’t think I full had a grasp (on Langkabel’s performance) until after I watched the game again. He was just dominating in so many ways. He was the best player on the floor and was composed. It was just an unbelievable performance. I don’t know if you can be any more efficient than that.”

Trailing by four points at halftime (41-37), the Yellow Jackets outscored the Tigers 45-23 in the second half en route to the win. Langkabel had 32 points at the end of the third quarter as Morristown fought back to take a five-point lead heading into the fourth.

The gymnasium nearly exploded with a minute left in the final frame as fans could sense what was about to happen. Langkabel made a basket, was fouled on the attempt and shot extra free throws after a Tindley technical to put the game out of reach. 

Junior guard point guard Logan Laster added 16 points in the win, with several strong takes to the hole, while senior wing Eli Streeval finished with 12 points. Sophomore forward Trevon Carlton, who is The Shelbyville News Athlete of the Week, finished with eight points on 4 of 4 shooting.

The team’s fifth starter, junior guard Logan Theobald, couldn’t help but smile after the win.

“I don’t know what to think right now, I am really excited for myself and for my team,” Theobald said. “To finally win a regional again, I am proud of every one of my teammates. It is just really exciting.”

Morristown moves on to face a well-respected Barr-Reeve (No. 6, 24-4) program, which is led by veteran head coach Bryan Hughes. He is 477-156 in his 26th year at the school. The Vikings won a state title in 2015.

The teams will meet at 1 p.m. at the Seymour Semistate, which will have the attention of the entire state. Indiana University target Romeo Langford and New Albany are set to meet Warren Central in the second game inside Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium, which seats 8,110. 

“Barr-Reeve is certainly not going to be an easy opponent, but it is one we are glad we get to play,” McClelland said. “First of all, they have a Hall of Fame coach. They are constantly in the top 10 and have won multiple sectionals. They have a little size and some balance.”

Following the regional title game, Waldron head coach Will Staal mentioned a previous conversation we had -- on record. His belief is that Langkabel should be an Indiana All-Star at season’s end. Having been focused on the tournament for so long, I honestly forgot about the subject.

I do not want to take away anything from the team, because I know Langkabel is focused on winning at this point. In my opinion, however, after scoring 46 points against the defending state champs, how is he not? Not to mention, Tindley’s best player Eric Hunter, a Purdue signee, will likely make the team. If he does, Langkabel deserves a spot.

“That guys deserves everything,” said Laster, his backcourt partner. “He is in the gym every night shooting and working on his game. When he is on, we are really tough to beat.”

A win Saturday on centerstage, Langkabel’s ultimate goal as a humble, team-first player, would only add to an already strong resume.

Kris Mills is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Kris on Twitter @KrisMills37.