CARMEL, Ind. -- The game of hot potato will likely continue with the No. 1 ranking in high school boys basketball when the new Class 4A poll is released Monday.
No. 5 Hamilton Southeastern defeated top-ranked Carmel 52-49 Thursday night in a physical, chippy game in which neither team led by more than four points.
"It's not easy playing Carmel, especially on the road," said Hamilton SE senior Zak Irvin, who led the way with a hard-earned 19 points.
In winning the 4A state championship last year, Carmel (15-2) made its reputation as a defensive-minded, mentally tough team. That has carried over to this year's team, which made Hamilton Southeastern's win even more impressive.
Carmel led 48-45 and had possession with 3 minutes left. But a turnover gave the ball back to HSE (15-2), and Eric Davidson's 3-pointer -- which came after an offensive rebound -- tied it 48-all with 2:32 left.
"Our guys have been good about making good decisions and holding a lead at the end of games," said Carmel coach Scott Heady, who noted his team's 8-for-14 free-throw shooting. "That's not indicative of how we've finished games."
After a Carmel miss, Larry Johnson's baseline dunk put the Royals ahead 50-48 with 1:36 left and incited chants of "Lar-ry John-son, Lar-ry John-son" from the large HSE student section. Johnson, a 6-8 senior who transferred from Carmel this fall, scored all four of his points in the fourth quarter.
"It felt good to get a little revenge and show them what they missed out on," Johnson said.
Michael Volovic made 1-of-2 free throws to bring Carmel within 50-49 with 1:08 left, and the Greyhounds got the ball back after Zach McRoberts stole the inbounds pass and called a timeout.
But James Crowley's 10-foot shot from just outside the lane missed short and Tyler Jenkins buried both ends of a 1-and-1 to put HSE up 52-49 with 18.7 seconds left.
Ryan Cline's potential tying 3-pointer from the top of the key was offline. HSE left the door open when Irvin missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 with 6.1 seconds left, but Cline's contested 3-pointer fell short at the buzzer.
The last time the teams met was in last year's Sectional 8 championship game in Noblesville, a game Carmel won 81-63 over then No. 1-ranked HSE. Royals coach Brian Satterfield said that never came up this week, though Irvin smiled when asked about it.
"It was a statement game for us to come out here and play well," the 6-7 Michigan recruit said. "It was motivation for us."
McRoberts, at 6-6, guarded Irvin all night. Irvin scored 12 of his 19 points in the second quarter.
"He's a tall and long defender and is able to use his length very well," Irvin said. "Carmel always has great help defense, but my teammates stepped up and made big plays."
Ross Risley, a 6-4 senior, added 10 points for the Royals. Crowley led Carmel with 15 points, Michael Volovic added 12 and McRoberts had nine points and seven rebounds.
Thursday's game may have been a preview of what's to come in the sectional.
"This is a nice win for us," Satterfield said, "but it's not the main thing. The main thing is in a couple of weeks."
* MORE COVERAGE: Indiana high school sports page.
* VIDEO: Indiana high school boys basketball: No. 5 HSE downs No. 1 Carmel.
* PHOTO GALLERY: Hamilton Southeastern at Carmel.