April 8, 2022

‘We, not me’ guides Providence’s state basketball championship

The boys’ basketball team of Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville celebrates its first state championship on March 26 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (Photo courtesy of Charles Kraft)

The boys’ basketball team of Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville celebrates its first state championship on March 26 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (Photo courtesy of Charles Kraft)

By John Shaughnessy

With their lights flashing and their sirens blaring, the fire trucks and police cars of Clarksville headed toward Our Lady of Providence High School, joyously signaling the arrival of the boys’ basketball team—the first basketball team in the school’s 70-year history to win a state championship.

It was another memorable scene from the whirlwind celebration of the Pioneers’ victory over the team from Central Noble High School in the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s Class 2A championship game in Indianapolis on March 26, winning by a score of 62-49.

For head coach Ryan Miller, the escort by the police and fire departments—plus the raucous celebration at the school—reflect just how much the team’s championship means to the tight-knit Providence community and to the larger local community in southern Indiana.

For the third-year head coach, the state championship also represents something even deeper and more powerful.

“For so many individuals, it’s an opportunity to highlight what we are about as a school community,” Miller said. “We truly are a family. Our faith truly roots us together and creates this community and family environment. And that’s true of all of our Catholic schools across the archdiocese and across the country.

“It’s great to see people excited, joyous and proud. You realize it isn’t about a small group of people doing this. It’s about everyone who was part of this journey, including the good Lord.”

He then began to mention many of the people who contributed to this championship journey, showing that the team’s motto of “We, not me” is also especially personal to him.

The trinity of spirit, support, sacrifice

Miller saluted Providence’s boys’ basketball team of 2019-20 for setting a standard to follow, a team that had won a sectional and was in the midst of its own journey toward a possible state championship when the pandemic ended Indiana’s tournament in March of 2020.

He praised the priests of the New Albany Deanery for their support of the team—including Fathers Wilfred “Sonny” Day, Joseph Feltz and Jeremy Gries—with a special mention of Father Daniel Atkins, the coordinating chaplain at Providence.

“On the day of our practices before the tournament games, he celebrated Mass in all of the locker rooms, and he led the team prayer before the games,” Miller said. “It was nice to have that presence.”

The coach also mentioned the “incredible support” of the school’s administrators, staff and students, plus the enthusiasm of former Providence coaches and players, including his father, Larry Miller, a 1968 Providence graduate.

And he made a special point to recognize the families of the players and the coaches, and his own family.

A 1999 graduate of Providence, Miller glowed about the support of his wife and the mother of their four children, Danielle—a high school classmate. He noted how they visited St. Mary Church in New Albany on March 29 as part of her recent birthday celebration, as the former St. Mary School was where they first met.

“There’s a huge sacrifice made by our families so we can try to do something like this together,” he said. “That sacrifice occurs every year at schools across the state and the country.”

Being there for each other

Of course, he also focused on the players on the championship team, starting with its five seniors: Max Beatty, Cade Carver, Eli Krussow, Tyler Simmons and Grant Williams. He also mentioned the two senior student managers, Andrew Singleton and Jose Perez.

“The greatest strength of the team,” he said, was how it embraced the attitude of being “positive times four.”

“We want them to be the most encouraging teammates for each other,” Miller said. “They need to physically and verbally give each other positive touches—high-fives, hugs, pats on the back, picking each other up. When one went down on the floor, we wanted them all to be there to pick him up. When you have that, it allows you to weather the ups and downs of the season.

“We had two really tough losses before the sectional began, but the boys continued to grow through the adversity because they knew they were going to be positive and be there for each other.”

That attitude continued throughout the state tournament when Providence was considered a decided underdog in many of the games, including in the state championship.

“We really had to go through the gauntlet of the best teams in our state run,” Miller said. “Every year in the state and across the country, everyone is trying so hard to do this, to win a championship. And that’s why I feel so blessed.

“There’s just an overwhelming sense of gratitude for everyone who helped make this most special journey possible.” †

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