“I just wanted to win this game for my team and my coaches for everything they’ve put in for me,” Caudill said.
That’s what the Rams did — 58-56 in a nerve-wracker — and Caudill led them with 24 points, securing at least a tie for the division title with one league game to play.
“The team’s been rough the past three years, but this year the team just connects together, we love playing with each other and nothing feels better than this,” Caudill said.
The Rams (16-5, 12-3) own a one-game lead over Cedarville (15-5, 11-4) and a 1 1/2-game lead over Greenon (11-6, 10-4). The Knights were snowed out Friday against Madison Plains and will make that game up next Saturday. The Rams can win the division outright Friday at Southeastern. Cedarville finishes at home Friday against Greenon.
“We had a senior dinner the other night and we talked about how as coaches we want to win the league, but not really for us,” Rams coach Kyle Fulk said. “It’s for kids like Gabe Caudill and Dave Lehotay that have been part of the program for four years, worked really hard and haven’t had a ton of success. To see them be able to hang up their Greeneview jerseys as league champions would be pretty special.”
Cedarville hasn’t been in this situation for a long time either. The Indians beat Greeneview 48-43 in December and won their first seven league games.
“This is big for our program to be in this situation,” Indians coach Ryan Godlove said. “Obviously we wish we would have come out on top, but to be able to play for a league championship with just two games left is a fun environment for our kids and a learning situation.”
Greeneview junior Rhett Burch (17 points) made consecutive 3-pointers to give the Rams a 56-48 lead with 4:12 left. It was the biggest lead of the game for either team as they matched shot for shot. The Rams made 10 3-pointers — three each by Caudill and Burtch — and the Indians made seven led by Trent Koning with five of them and 17 points.
Cedarville responded with a six-point run to cut its deficit to 56-54 on Colby Cross’ off-balance shot in the lane with 1:23 left. The teams traded baskets, and Cedarville sent the Rams to the foul line with 29 seconds left and eight seconds left. But the Rams missed both times. Cedarville had two chances to tie, but the Rams had several fouls to give before the Indians would shoot free throws. The Rams fouled three times and didn’t allow the Indians to get the quick shot they wanted. Finally after the last foul with four seconds left, Cross (13 points) got an open two-point shot on the right wing that bounced off the rim.
“When we’re going to the line I feel pretty good,” Fulk said. “As Cedarville’s running the ball up the floor the other way I’m not feeling so good. They’ve got tremendous scorers, so being up two in that situation is extremely nerve-wracking as a coach. Our kids got it done.”
And Caudill laid some other memories to rest — not always playing his best against Cedarville. But when he made a couple early shots, Fulk had a feeling.
“I thought I hope he makes this a special night,” he said. “I think it’s one he’ll remember for a long time.”