The disappointment was as real as the future is bright.
That’s how Jason Delaney saw the 2017-2018 Cathedral High School boys basketball season – as one that was full of accomplishment and hope, and equally full of disappointment at the end.
The Irish went 19-5 in Delaney’s second season as head coach.
They were ranked No. 8 in the final Class 4A Indiana Basketball Coaches Association poll.
They continued to build one of the state’s best programs – and a 71-63 loss to Lawrence North in the opening round of the Section 10, Class 4A tournament on February 27 didn’t change that.
“We’re chasing history,” Delaney said shortly after the season. “We’re trying to become the first Class 4A state [boys basketball] champions here at Cathedral. We had a really good season, but unfortunately we play in Sectional 10, which is a beast.
“There are four good teams and only one can come out.”
The season-ending loss marked yet another difficult end to an otherwise successful season for the Irish. Cathedral has competed in Class 4A boys basketball since 2001-2002 and has had a winning record every season during that span. The lone time the Irish won the regional was in 2012-2013, when they lost to Carmel in the Class 4A state title game.
“In the sectional, it’s about which team executes better that given night,” Delaney said. “We just didn’t have a very good shooting night. Unfortunately, that’s part of it in that sectional. You can’t get away with not playing up to your capabilities in one certain area.
“If you’re not defending, or hitting shots, it’s going to get you that night.”
The 19 victories in 2017-2018 marked the Irish’s most since 2013. All five losses came to programs ranked among the state’s top 11 teams: Warren Central, Lawrence North (twice), South Bend Riley and Ben Davis.
The Irish also won 15 of 16 games in one December-through-February stretch, a run that included an 88-86 double-overtime victory over Howe in the City Tournament title game.
“We went toe to toe with the state’s best,” Delaney said.
The Irish’s 2017-2018 accomplishments came with a team dominated by underclassman. The program’s junior varsity went 17-5 and won the jayvee city championship.
“It was a great season; we’re very happy with the direction of the program,” Delaney said, adding of the sectional loss, “You have to move forward. But you don’t forget how it felt. You can’t forget how that game played out and you look at everything you have to do to get that edge.
“We have to get stronger. We have to find a few more guys to contribute. Everyone’s focused on next year already, but you don’t forget about some of the things from this year.”
The Irish in 2017-2018 were led by a talented mix of underclassmen and seniors, with senior Ball State signee and Indiana All-Star Jarron Coleman finishing with 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game and senior Jayden Edwards averaging 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Senior Jacob Ball averaged 1.5 points and 1.4 rebounds.
“They were the greatest group of seniors you could ask for you,” Delaney said of a group that also included student managers Evan Beretta and Keshaun Tompkins-Barnes. “They bought in and they would run through a wall for you.”
Junior point guard Arman Franklin emerged as perhaps the Irish’s top player, averaging 23.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game after moving to point guard this past season from forward. He has received offers from Purdue, Xavier and Butler.
Delaney called Franklin “the ideal teammate.”
“His points came within the flow of the offense,” Delaney said. “We play against and see a lot of the top players around. Some guys are hunting shots. They’ll take shots because they want to score. I can’t think of one shot where he did that.”
Junior James Franklin, who had two brain surgeries this past offseason, averaged 6.9 points and 3.5 rebounds and junior Justin Hensley averaged 8.8 points and 1.9 rebounds while shooting 42 percent from three-point range.
Junior Ross Welch averaged 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds, while sophomore Haven Montefalco averaged 3.3 points and 3.7 rebounds and sophomore Grant Taueg averaged 1.5 points and 1.3 rebounds.
“This group of boys was an absolute pleasure to coach,” Delaney said. “I loved every minute coaching this team. I loved working with this coaching staff. You can see we’re right on the doorstep.
“We return all but about 17 points next year. Even though it seems really dark right now, the future is extremely bright.”
Delaney said he has seen signs that that is true since the end of the season. He received a text from Franklin shortly after the sectional loss apologizing for the loss and saying, “Next year is going to be our year.”
“He’s a kid who scored 33 points in that game; he did everything he could do,” Delaney said. “The next day he’s got guys going at it in the weight room. The next day, got a card from another returning player: ‘Coach we will get this done.’ ”
Delaney said that approach will bode well for the future, a future he said he believes will outshine the disappointment of how this past season ended.
“Since April, the buy in we have had has been outstanding – just guys who want to be coached, guys who work as hard as they could, guys who sacrifice their own personal achievements for other guys,” Delaney said. “I see the determination in these guys.
“That’s what gives you hope and belief you’re going the right way.”