MARION – Carmel may be on its way to a second consecutive state championship after winning the Class 4A Marion Regional over New Haven on Saturday, but the more lasting impression on many people in attendance was Steve McElvene.
The 6-foot-11 center for New Haven had a stellar regional round, combining over two games for 39 points, 33 rebounds and 10 blocked shots.
It was the culmination of a season-long development for the move-in from Alabama. McElvene barely came out of the game in the victory over Northrop and the defeat to Carmel. He was equally effective offensively and defensively, and is arguably the most improved player in the area from the beginning of the season to now.
“Steve was a good inside presence for us,” New Haven coach Al Gooden said. “We wanted to keep him in there and get him to do the things we needed done.”
There was not much McElvene didn't do in the 65-60 victory over Northrop in the regional semifinal.
For four quarters he dominated the smaller Bruins forwards, finishing two blocks shy of a triple-double. His line of 24 points, 16 rebounds and eight blocks doesn't begin to reflect the impact he had on the game. In addition to the blocks, he had countless plays where he altered Northrop's shots purely due to his presence in the paint.
In the nightcap, Carmel found a way to limit McElvene without having to worry about stopping him. The Greyhounds spied on the lob pass inside and took it away, particularly in the second half. New Haven attempted several times to get it to the junior, but ended up turning the ball over.
But McElvene still finished the night with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting in addition to 17 rebounds.
“My coaches helped me work on rebounding,” McElvene said. “I needed to rebound as much as possible.”
What makes McElvene so scary, besides the fact that he will return for a senior season, is his secondary attributes. He does not play stiff like some tall players at the prep level and his hands are remarkably soft for someone his size. He showed an ability to step a few feet away from the basket and make a short jumper and has a great drop step in the paint.
V.J. Beachem is heading to Notre Dame, but McElvene was New Haven's best player on the court Saturday.
Now, it is time for him to continue to refine his game.
“I want to keep working on my foot work and my left hand,” McElvene said. “My shooting as well is something I want to improve.”
McElvene's lack of bench time Saturday showed that has conditioned himself to keep up when the style of play goes fast. That was not the case earlier in the season.
“Steve did a great job,” Gooden said. “He did a good job inside and hopefully next year he can do a little better.”