The win, before a record paid crowd of 2,717 in Odle Arena on the campus in Upland, Ind., advanced the Trojans to the title game in the school's 29th annual Ivanhoe/Taylor Classic, a tournament involving four schools. Taylor defeated Trinity International, 70-56, for the championship on Dec. 8, improving its win-loss record to 7-4. Trinity had defeated Indiana University-East in the other Friday night game.
Coons (right) finished the Silent Night game with a team-high 22 points, the most celebrated basket coming with under 3 minutes gone in the first half, when his third 3-pointer gave the Trojans an 11-0 lead -- and pushed the team's point total past the 10-point threshold that transforms the silent full house into a roaring din. It was the fourth year that Coons had the honor of triggering the celebratory 10th point bedlam. In his three previous years, he had accomplished the feat on free throws. Coons came back on Saturday to score a season high 27 points in the classic title game.
Nate Kasper (17), Jesse Coffey (12) and Tyler Waite (11) also scored in double figures for the Trojans in the win over the University of Akron-Wayne. Four of Coffey's basket came on 3-pointers. Josh Riikonen and Tommy Peller led the team in rebounds and assists, with 8 and 6, respectively.
The Warriors didn't score until the 15:39 mark when junior guard Marzell Brooks hit a field goal in the paint, making the score 17-2. Taylor led at halftime 53-22 and coasted in the second half. Coach Paul Patterson used all 13 of his players in the game -- and all but 6-2 senior Nate Burdette managed to score at least one point.
Patterson's squad executed a disciplined offense distinguished by quick passing and good shooting. His is a distinguished program that, in his 33 years as coach, has won 15 conference championships, qualified for 14 NAIA tournaments, made one NAIA Tournament Final Four (1990-91) and -- perhaps his most significant achievement -- seen every one of his four-year players leave Taylor with a college degree.
At the Silent Night game, Patterson renewed his practice of going barefoot to bring awareness to Samaritan's Feet, a global mission to provide shoes and hope to impoverished children throughout the world. Indianapolis is one of a handful of hubs for the endeavor and is where, in 2008, then-coach Ron Hunter of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis became the first basketball coach to shed his shoes at a game to bring attention to Samaritan's Feet. Many more coaches, including Patterson, throughout the country have followed suit since.
For a full gallery of images from the Silent Night game between Taylor and Akron-Wayne, visit my SmugMug site.
Above: A wide-angle lens gave me this expansive overview of Odle Arena more than a half-hour before tip-off. The stands are already packed, and while the home team Trojans are warming up at the near goal, the visiting Akron-Wayne Warriors had not arrived yet.
Above: The Trojans gather for a team huddle before tip-off.
Above: 6-8 senior Nate Kasper goes up for 2 early in the game.
Above: Akron-Wayne's bench was thin in numbers; the Warriors suited up only nine players, compared to the Trojans' 13.
Above and below: Akron-Wayne's Devaughn Boddie fakes left to swing right around Taylor defender Jordan Richardson in first-half action.
Above: Kasper is alone under the basket for yet another two-pointer.
Above: A convergence of arms and hands under the basket, scrambling for a loose ball, almost always makes for a good photography.
Above and next two below: Akron-Wayne's Tyler Combs (foreground, left) manages to slap the ball between the legs of the Trojans' Ian Dutcher and toward Combs' leaping teammate, Marzell Brooks, after which Dutcher and Brooks scramble for possession.
Above: This time, Dutcher, surrounded by four Akron-Wayne defenders on the low post, smoothly moved to his left and turned to sink this half-hook shovel shot.
Above: Casey Coons (15) launches -- and would sink -- yet another of his seven first-half 3-pointers as teammate Josh Riikonen (35) turns to watch the basket.
Above: Taylor's Darayl Jorden slams home a basket in front of Akron-Wayne's Tyler Combs.
Above and below: Kasper gets temporarily delayed going after a loose ball by a defender's finger in the game and arm against the head. But he recovers quickly enough to try and take in the ball. But the momentum of Akron-Wayne's Tyler Combs (below) would knock the ball out of bounds.
Above: Two spectators found a rare open spot to watch the game. They were in the out-of-bounds portion of the court at the court's northeast corner.
Above: With a quick leap, Akron-Wayne's Tyler Combs gets to a rebound from a missed Trojans' basket ahead of his Taylor opponent.
Above and below: With only 2 seconds left on the clock, Taylor's Nate Kasper snagged a teammate's missed shot and quickly went back up to score the final points of the first half, giving Taylor a 53-22 lead at the intermission.
The Taylor offense's passing, like that exhibited by guards Jesse Coffey (above), a sophomore, and Jordan Richardson (below), a freshman, was quick and crisp and forced the Warriors to run hard on defense to keep up.
Above: Ian Dutcher reaches to grab a loose ball.
Above: Senior guard Jacob Hoffman, defended by Akron-Wayne's Devaughn Boddie, dribbles left to find an open passing or driving lane.