Jaden McGrath scored eight points.
Jaden McGrath scored eight points.

When Levi Kemp was called for his second foul in the first quarter of Indy’s match-up with Parsons Tuesday night no Bulldogs fans worried. They had Caden Hayward coming off of the bench so they were OK.

When Zack Schroeder was called for his second foul just a couple of possessions later fans may have begun to get annoyed, but Jaden McGrath has been playing great of late, so even then they were comfortable.

But when Zeadric Daniels was called for fouls on back to back plays just one possession after Schroeder was taken off the court due to foul trouble, the annoyance began.

However, when Indy lost to Pittsburg February 3, the thing that cannot be forgotten is that while Indy did lose the game because of the pace of the Purple Dragons and the depth in which the bigger 5A school was able to run out onto the court, the Bulldogs still have tremendous depth on their squad.

Indy had two more players get into foul trouble and leave the court in the first 10 minutes of their match-up with Parsons Tuesday. Davion Lewis was called for his second just seconds into the second quarter and Evan Kleiber was called for two fouls off the bench.

But when the dust settled at the end of the first half Indy still had an eight-point lead, but more importantly, their bench had scored 12 points on their own, which was half of Parsons’ team total.

Five Indy players were called for their third fouls just minutes into the third quarter which put even more pressure on the Bulldog bench. It was pressure that they clearly never noticed.

When the third quarter came to a close the Bulldogs had 27 points off of the bench while Parsons had all of 38 points as a team.

Many were sure that the Bulldogs would run into some trouble if they got into some foul trouble. But the crazy part about all of this was that Indy not only wasn’t in trouble, but they extended their lead from eight points at the half, to 15 at the end of the third quarter.

Indy’s bench is almost the sole reason the Bulldogs won their match-up with the Vikings.

“They trusted each other and they helped each other and they helped each other out on defense a lot in the third quarter and they played well together,” head coach Marcus Lanning said. “When you say a ‘team-win’ sometimes kids don’t get in, but that was a total team win.”

The Bulldog bench scored 32 points Tuesday night to Parsons’ entire 51. Kleiber scored 12, McGrath scored eight, Hayward and Treyvon Kendrex each scored four, Josh Pralle had three and Majour Johnson added one.

Coming into the game Tuesday night those six players were averaging 17 points in total, and in actuality that is a bit misleading because McGrath has only played in eight varsity games and Kleiber has averaged less than four points a game since the start of the calendar year.

And to be clear Indy has always had depth off the bench. We have made sure to point that out here and here and here already this season.

But while the depth has been tested and passed most of those tests especially during Indy’s 9-3 run they had coming into their match-up with Parsons Tuesday, they had not been tested all at once at any one point.

Hayward has been good on his own, Kleiber has been good on his own, Kendrex has been good on his own and McGrath has been emerging, but they have yet to have to be on the court all together at the same time.

That happened Tuesday and they passed with flying colors.

One of the big reasons for that is the experience Indy has coming off the bench. Kleiber was a starter at the beginning of the season before getting sick, Hayward was a starter some last year and pulled a couple starts this year, while Kendrex has been seeing more and more time this season and playing beyond his experience.

So to have these players coming off the bench is more than just having a body to fill a spot. Every player coming off the bench knows what the speed of the varsity game looks like and they aren’t going to freak out when they’re thrown into it.

“Our seniors (Kleiber and Hayward) no matter whether they start or don’t start, they would start on a lot of teams, and that being said, we have two guards, really three guards, and two posts really, so I’ve got two posts I can bring in or I can put Caden at the three, but they’ve started before, they haven’t started before, and when they come in, when I put them in they give me everything I want,” Lanning said. “Evan and Caden, and if they get in foul trouble and I have to bring in a freshman or a sophomore, they give me all I want, so the kids bust their tails because they know I’ll go with whoever’s the hot hand and every once in a while it may not be one of my starters and that’s fine.”

And while Drew Pasternak is a starter and has started all year long he really factored into the play of the bench as well.

The senior guard averages 3.5 points per game this year and often spends quite a bit of time on the bench because Lanning likes how Hayward gives them a bigger line-up, but he did not leave the court for much more than a second Tuesday night.

He was the only starter not in foul trouble and had six points himself in the game. He hit two threes and played good defense and stayed out of foul trouble which gave Indy a bit of a rock in the center of things to keep what looked like a little bit of a rag-tag bunch for a lot of the game on the court.

But he didn’t care, nor did any of the other guys. They played Parsons’ best and beat them, straight-up.

“I don’t think we really did realize this (how much depth we had), and that’s what coach said in the locker room, he said that it’s good to know that he’s got guys off the bench that he can play if we get in foul trouble like that,” Pasternak said. “So it’s helpful.”

Pasternak was the lone starter on the court, Kleiber and Hayward were the two seniors off the bench, Josh Pralle and Kendrex were the athletic juniors that matched up with Parsons’ quickness and speed, while McGrath was the wildcard.

The freshman has really started to find his way for the Bulldogs and scored eight points for the second time off the bench this season and the second time in the last four games.

He has made at least one three off the bench in each of the last four games and has shot 36 percent from beyond the arc in the process.

But what he really does is give Lanning a second point guard option off the bench if Daniels ever gets into trouble and that really helps the Bulldogs not miss a beat.

And if there is anything with McGrath, it’s that he doesn’t lack confidence.

“Over the past couple of games I’ve been getting better, more focused, more confident in my shot, and in my defense,” he said after Tuesday’s win.

With McGrath playing in the line-up the Bulldogs are 6-2 this season. And more and more as the year has gone on Lanning has had more confidence to use him. 

Which marks the first year that Lanning has played two freshmen significant minutes on Indy’s varsity.

“I’ve got to credit the JV (tonight) because usually he’ll have three quarters JV and JV played real good tonight so they only had to play him two, so that being said when we got in foul trouble I was able to play him in the first quarter,” he said. “Normally he’ll sit out the first quarter and then play the rest of the night, so I was excited that when he only played two quarters he was able to play more for us tonight.”

With ALL of that being said, and there’s a lot there I know, Indy got contributions from anywhere and everywhere Tuesday night.

They have been getting a lot of production off of the bench all season long, but Tuesday night was their shining moment.

They showed the SEK that it doesn’t matter if they get in foul trouble they will still be able to compete and even extend a lead from time to time. That is going to make them very dangerous down the road, even more dangerous than they already are at this point.