HEBRON | "Illustrious" is an adjective not often used to describe the history of athletics at Westville High School.
Its highest profile program, the boys basketball team, has had just four winning seasons since 1981. Three of them came under head coach Bill Berger (2005-07), and current coach Rob Walker led the Blackhawks to a 12-10 record last season.
But this year's team is making history, appropriately enough during the first season back in the Porter County Conference.
On Saturday night, Westville made its first appearance in the PCC Tournament championship game since 1983, taking on Hebron on the Hawks' home court.
But the Blackhawks seemed a bit shell-shocked early on, trailing 12-8 and 30-17 at the first two breaks and 52-36 after three before rallying late from 21 down as Hebron held on for a 69-65 victory.
It was Hebron's 19th overall PCC Tournament championship in the 91st event.
"I'm not surprised," said Hebron coach John Steinhilber, who improved to 4-2 in six PCC title game appearances. "We made it here but we had to get a lot better, and we did get better all week."
Bryce Hanaway led the Hawks (9-3) with 22 points and three assists. Sophomore Donovan Friel got his first career start and came through with 14 points, 6-foot-6 junior Spencer Sutherland had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Tony Rose scored 10 points.
For Westville (8-5), Shawn Gerron scored a game-high 28 points, while Josh Brownlee and Chris Wilkins each added 13.
The game got off to bit of a late start due to a wardrobe miscommunication.
After both teams removed their warm-up pants, officials realized both teams were wearing white. According to the draw, Westville was the home team but the league has a rule that if the host team is playing, it wears white.
But Blackawks' dark uniforms were back in Westville, so the Hawks changed into their red uniforms while the warm-up clock was stopped at eight minutes.
It didn't seem to faze the Hawks, who came out looking like a well-oiled machine. Friel took advantage of his opportunity to start, hitting a 3- pointer on Hebron's first possession. In the second quarter, he sparked the Hawks with another 3-pointer followed by 17-foot bank shot and a pair of free throws.
Hebron then worked its lead up to 28-12 before Westville closed the gap at halftime to 30-17. In the third quarter, Hanaway hit a pair of 3-pointers as Hebron built its lead up to as much as 21.
Back in 1983, Westville beat Hanover Central, Kouts and LaCrosse before falling to Boone Grove 73-57 in the championship. That team would endure a coaching change in February and finish 10-13 overall. Two years later, the Blackhawks endured an 0-20 season.
Westville first joined the PCC in 1975-76, and left after the 1997-98 school year to join the now-defunct Northland Athletic Conference.
Hebron, meanwhile, claimed its second title in the last three years. This is a new cast of characters from the 2011-12 team that finished 23-2 and easily beat Kouts, South Central and Morgan for the PCC Tourney title that season.
Former star Damon Wallace now is on the coaching staff. Steinhilber, now in his fourth season at Hebron, won the 2006 and 2009 PCC tourney titles when he was at South Central as well as the 2012 championship with the Hawks.
Hebron advanced to the title game by hanging on for a 49-48 victory over Morgan Township in the first semifinal Saturday morning.
Hebron's Drew Wheeler hit 11 of 12 free throws in the second half, including a pair in the final seconds to put the Hawks up four. A Morgan 3 cut the deficit to one, but Hebron was able to run out the clock. Wheeler finished with 13 points, as did Sutherland and Hanaway. Overall, the Hawks were 24 of 33 from the line.
Morgan (7-5) was led by Jake Koselke with 16 points, most of them coming in the second half, while Chase Braden had 13 points and 10 rebounds and Tyler Abbett scored 10.
Westville had four players in double figures in a 75-68 victory over Washington Township in the other semifinal. Wilkins had 15 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, while Gerron (15 points, 10 assists), Austin Swistek (15 points) and Alex Henn (10 points) also played well for the Blackhawks.
For Washington (8-5), Nathan Line scored 16 points to lead five scorers in double figures.