MICHIGAN CITY | It took LaPorte eight games to get its roster back to full strength, and now that the Slicers are there, it could be fun times ahead.
Gage Ott and Miles Browder returned from suspensions for the championship of the Duneland Athletic Conference East tournament Saturday, helping the Slicers knock off host Michigan City 68-58.
"People asked me, 'Are you gonna start them? I said, 'Hell yeah,'" LaPorte coach Tom Wells said. "We have very strict rules, very high expectations. The punishment has been served. There's no looking back. This group of seniors has been waiting so long to play together and have some success. It's great to have them back."
The 6-foot-6 Ott scored 13 points to complement do-it-all point guard Josh Fleming (20 points, seven rebounds, five steals).
"It feels real good to get two starters back and continue our winning streak," Fleming said. "We're going to be bigger inside. We're going to be harder to stop. We've got a lot of options. We came in knowing it was going to be a really loud, good atmosphere, but that's what we like."
City (5-2) jumped to an eight-point first-quarter lead, but struggled offensively in the middle quarters, and trailed by as many as 16. It sabotaged any comeback hopes by missing 7 of 8 free throws in the fourth quarter.
"We knew exactly what was coming in the gym and we didn't defend well," Wolves coach John Boyd said. "We missed free throws when we needed to make them. We let LaPorte dictate tempo, more importantly, Fleming. He was attacking the middle of the floor, which is something we didn't do."
Jacob Jones and Blake Arnett chipped in 13 and 10 points, respectively, for the Slicers (7-2).
"When they're trapping, there's not a lot of time to run your offensive sets," Wells said. "It's just reading the double team. Any coach will tell you you're two passes away from an open look. We recognized things pretty well and knocked down some 3 balls."
Both teams hit seven treys, but LaPorte was much more efficient, attempting 15 to M.C.'s 28. Shayne Barron and Michael Miller came off the bench to lead the Wolves with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Six-seven center Keenan Simmons snagged 13 boards, but was held in check offensively, scoring 13 points.
"We want to thank LaPorte for showing us what a lot of teams are going to do (against Simmons)," Boyd said. "It's something we'll have to prepare for and we will."
LaPorte has won six in a row heading into a Jan. 10 clash with Lake Central.
"I know we're in December, but there are a lot of reasons to believe," Wells said. "Now we have to use it as a springboard."
In the consolation game, Justin Osburn scored all 23 of his points in the second half as Valparaiso (4-4) downed Chesterton 52-45. Niles Dilosa led the Trojans (4-3) with 14.