April 8, 2022

Cathedral pursues a path of perseverance to become state champs

The boys’ basketball team of Cathedral High School in Indianapolis celebrates its state championship on March 26 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (Submitted photo)

The boys’ basketball team of Cathedral High School in Indianapolis celebrates its state championship on March 26 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Less than 48 hours after guiding the boys’ basketball team of Cathedral High School in Indianapolis to a state championship, head coach Jason Delaney was in the midst of dealing with his own range of emotions.

There was the pure joy of remembering the scene of the Cathedral players celebrating their dominant victory on March 26—beating the previously unbeaten team from Chesterton High School in the Class 4A Indiana State High School Athletic Association championship game by a score of 65-31.

“The greatest part was seeing their excitement. To see them hugging, smiling and crying, that’s the beauty of it all,” Delaney said on March 28 as he sat in his office. “That’s a bond that will last their lifetime.”

At the same time, Delaney felt a touch of sorrow as he walked through the team’s locker room earlier that day, knowing he wouldn’t again share that space with this team, especially its six seniors.

“This is such a special group. You’re sad to see the seniors go. You love them so much.”

The thread that connects the joy and the sadness for Delaney is the pride he has in this group of players. He shared a list of the qualities that defined the Cathedral teammates, starting with their selflessness, even though they were individually talented enough to get more than 50 college scholarship offers.

“They’re willing to sacrifice, to be coached. The overwhelming thing that comes to mind is their character,” he said. “They work hard in the classroom, and they do great things in the community. And they love each other. To bring kids from all walks of life and mold them together, that’s a thing of beauty.”

A team of perseverance

Delaney believes that “God gives each and every one of us a platform” to make a difference. As a coach, he believes that his purpose includes helping young people “to display perseverance to achieve the best within themselves.”

Cathedral’s path to the state championship required that perseverance. The school’s boys’ basketball teams hadn’t won a sectional game since 2015, and this year’s team of mostly seniors and juniors knew the heartbreak of being part of talented teams that weren’t able to break that streak.

To prepare this year’s team even more, Delaney said, “we built an extremely difficult schedule to test ourselves. We wanted to face adversity.”

The defining moment of adversity came on the weekend of Feb. 18-19. On the first game of that weekend, Cathedral built a 9-point halftime lead against the team from Ben Davis High School, only to play poorly in the second half and lose, their coach recalled. The next day, they traveled to Kentucky to face that state’s second-ranked team. When Cathedral won that game by a point in overtime, Delaney saw his team’s perseverance on full display.

They continued to persevere in the same tough sectional that had ruined their dreams previously, winning three games. And all that perseverance turned to dominance in the state championship game.

“The whole foundation of everything is to believe,” Delaney said. “You have to have patience and believe in what you’re doing. Things didn’t go our way the first few years with this group. But everybody stayed true to what we believe. They just continued to believe and took the actions to get where they wanted.”

That belief also included the understanding that the journey of a season is more than just about striving to win a state championship, Delaney said.

“It’s not just about basketball, it’s about building a relationship with God. We did Bible studies. We prayed before every practice, every game, every meal.”

The prayers were shared from every direction. Sometimes, they came from one of the six seniors: Tayshawn Comer, Jaxon Edwards, Jaiden Malichi, Gabe Rodriguez, Luke Hern and Jerren Conway. Sometimes a prayer came from the senior student manager, Thomas McDonnell. Sometimes, it came from the other players and assistant coaches.

One of the prayers that was answered was a state championship.

“To see them sacrifice for the greater good of the team, that’s amazing,” Delaney said. “They all had a bigger goal in mind. That’s not the norm of our society.” †

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