Had the IHSAA sent Lake Central's boys basketball team to the moon for Saturday's semistate, the Indians would've taken it. Gladly.
L.C. would've traded in its school bus for a rocket ship and the Nikes for a pair of moon boots.
When a team hasn't won a regional since 1984, they'll play anywhere in the second half of March.
After the Indians' 57-55 win over Penn on a last-second tip-in by Tyler Wideman, the 30-year drought was over and the party began. The Indians got a police escort once they returned to Schererville and fans greeted them at the school.
"It was neat for the kids," L.C. coach Dave Milausnic said.
On Sunday, the IHSAA announced where the 16 remaining teams in Indiana's tournaments will play the semistate games. Region qualifiers — Bowman Academy (Class 3A), Marquette (Class A) and Lake Central (4A) could not all play at the same site this Saturday, since there are only two schools hosting semistates in the north.
Marquette and Lake Central will play at Lafayette Jeff and Bowman will play at Huntington North.
The Blazers (18-6) will play Liberty Christian (20-6) at noon at Jeff. Lake Central (21-3) will play Homestead (20-7) after the Class A game.
"I imagine it's easier for our fans," Milausnic said. "It's not that far. Our fan base is used to driving to Lafayette."
The "blind draw" semistate selection process was understood by Marquette coach Donovan Garletts.
"We didn't want to have to go to Huntington, but it was completely luck of the draw. It could have easily been the other way. Liberty will have to drive farther than us," Garletts said.
Marquette will make a decision after today's semistate meetings as to whether the team will travel Friday night and stay in a hotel in the Lafayette area or drive down on Saturday morning.
"I figured we’d play the early game no matter where we were. They always play the smaller schools first, from what I know," Garletts said.
Bowman Academy will play after the Westview-Cass game, which will tip off at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Bowman (21-4) will play Fort Wayne Dwenger (17-8). Bowman is two and a half hours from Huntington and Dwenger is about an hour away from the semistate site.
"It's a home game for them," Bowman coach Marvin Rea said. "I'll accept it, but I'm not happy about it."
This is Bowman's fourth semistate since 2010 and the Eagles have played at Huntington every year except 2012.
"We've worked hard to establish our program," Rea continued. "No disrespect to Lake Central, but this is their first semistate in 30 years. Their fans would've gone anywhere to see them play. They would've taken everyone to Huntington.
"My biggest fear is our fans will say, 'We'll wait and see Bowman in Indy. The drive's too long.' That's what happened when we lost to Morgan Twp. (2011). Our fans went to West Side that night. We need our fans. This is going to be a tough game and we need our fans to be there."
MICHIGAN CITY | Among all the rebounds Tyler Wideman has grabbed and will grab in his career, this is one he will never forget.
Lake Central's 6-foot-7 senior center put back a Tye Wilburn miss with 3 seconds left to give the Indians a heart-pounding 57-55 victory over Penn in Saturday's Class 4A Michigan City Regional championship.
"Before the play, I set a ball screen so I was already in motion," Wideman said. "Tye drove and I had a feeling I was going to get a chance to rebound if he missed, so I crashed the boards. I'm so happy it worked out. They had the momentum going. It could've went either way."
Jordan Geist put Penn (23-2) on his back in the second half, scoring 20 points, including the game-tying 17-footer with 22 seconds left. Rather than call a timeout, L.C. coach Dave Milausnic ran an isolation play to the right side for Wilburn.
"We had success with it in first half," Milausnic said. "I thought he showed a little early, but we put it on his shoulders. It was a great take and Tyler was there to clean it up."
"Big Tyler's one of the best big men in the state, in the country, however you want to put it," Wilburn said. "My intention was to get it up as high as I could so they couldn't block it, also so if I missed, we could get the rebound."
Robert Ryan stole the inbounds pass to ice the win.
"I was worried we were going to celebrate, but we got back and Robert got it," Milausnic said. "Then we could celebrate."
For a long while, it didn't look L.C. would need to wait that long. Using a stifling half-court defense and strong inside play, it built a 15-point first-half lead. Cory Dickelman notched eight of the Indians' first 10 points, all on inside baskets, and a Matt Meneghetti 3 pushed LC in front 13-4.
It was Wideman's turn in the second quarter, when he registered seven points. Wilburn was just as difficult to deal with off the dribble, blowing by the defense for three baskets. His layup gave L.C. its largest advantage at 29-14.
"First of all, it was great defense by Lake Central," Penn coach Al Rhodes said. "We weren't able to reverse the ball with good choices. Also, they limited us to one shot."
Penn made a 10-0 run in the third quarter to close within three, but three treys, two by Tyler Ross (one of them off the board) and another by Meneghetti, pushed the margin back to double figures.
The Kingsmen (23-2) rallied again, eventually pulling even on the Geist jumper.
"We showed a lot of courage coming back in the second half, but we couldn't keep the big guy (Wideman) off the glass," Rhodes said.
Wideman scored 16 points, Wilburn 12 and Dickelman 10 for L.C.
"We did it more for our school than for ourselves," Wilburn said. "It's been 30 years. We had to get it for our school."
Somewhere across the country, Bo Cucuz, Milan Petrovic, Chris Kostouros and the rest of the 1984 Lake Central Final Four team are celebrating, too. That stands as the Indians' only trip to the state finals, back when it was a four-team event, and its only previous regional title
"We'll enjoy it for 18 hours, then we'll start on next week," Milausnic said. "As long as we keep getting to the next game, we're not going to be content."
WHEATFIELD | Bowman Academy’s tournament run continued Saturday night in dominating fashion.
The Eagles cruised past South Bend St. Joseph 82-63 to win the Class 3A Kankakee Valley Regional title.
Bowman (21-4) faces Fort Wayne Dwenger in next Saturday’s northern semistate at either Lafayette Jeff or Huntington North in its quest for a third state championship.
“It’s just playing hard and playing as a team,” said senior forward Justin King, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Eagles did it not only offense but also with their defense, collecting 15 steals and winning their fourth regional in school history.
Bowman led 19-17 at the end of the first quarter and turned up the heat at both ends of the floor in the second.
Austin Daniels drained a 3-pointer to jump start the scoring for Bowman in the second, putting it on top for keeps at 22-19. Anthony Cole and Davon Dillard combined for eight points in the middle of a 17-3 run.
Raynard Perry’s 3-pointer put Bowman up 39-22 with 2 minutes and 35 seconds left before halftime. Bowman opened up a 43-26 lead at the break.
Bowman maintained a 62-47 lead after three quarters before eventually putting the game away in the fourth, outscoring St. Joe 21-16 in the final stanza.
Bowman coach Mavin Rea always challenges his squad, especially on the defensive end of the floor.
“Just like last week, we’re either going to play defense or we’re not going to play defense,” said Rea after the win over Andrean in the morning semifinals. “I asked my guys if they’re not going to play defense, let me know so that way I can make adjustments.
“We can either go to a half-court 1-3-1, or we can go full. I just need to know what you guys want to do.”
Dillard finished with a team-high 22 points, and Cole added 15.
The Eagles wanted another regional title and to take the next step in the tournament trail.
“Oh, yeah, definitely,” King said.
MICHIGAN CITY | It would've been easy to start dancing. A few chest bumps and pointing to the crowd, also would've been appropriate.
Winning a regional championship in Indiana is not easy. For some schools, that ladder is a lot higher than others. Lake Central is one of the latter schools.
The Indians had not won a regional title since 1984. Coach Dave Milausnic put those historic numbers on the blackboard before Saturday night's Class 4A Michigan City Regional championship game against Penn.
So when a double-digit first-half lead evaporated, it would've been easy for the Indians to fold. But Tye Wilburn had another idea.
He drove the lane with the clock inside 10 seconds in a Ty-ed game. His shot careened off the backboard and his best friend, Tyler Wideman tipped it in.
Lake Central's crazy, neon student body erupted. Milausnic did not.
“There were three seconds left on the clock,” Milausnic said. “I was afraid we'd start celebrating before the game was done.”
Enter “Scoots.” Senior Robert Ryan did what he and his mates did all night. They played nearly nuclear defense. He picked off a halfcourt pass that kept a prayer from going up.
A 57-55 win was in the books. His story was their story.
After playing a matador defense against LaPorte in the semifinal on Saturday morning, the Indians did what they've done all year. They played lock-down, in-your-face defense and like they've said for years, “Defense wins championships.”
“We didn't play good defense at all the first game and we took it personal,” Ryan said. “When I saw the ball go in I got on defense immediately. I saw the ball. I grabbed the ball.
“We won. Right there.”
Milausnic said he felt a lot of stress fly off his shoulders with the win. He's done a great job making a good team almost great. A win over Homestead in next Saturday's semistate will seal that deal.
The maturation of this team, led by seven seniors, has been remarkable. Two years ago L.C. laid an egg at this regional. This time, even though neither game was perfect, they found a way. Together.
Take Matt Meneghetti, for example. He was big against LaPorte. He was big against the Kingsmen. He hit three 3-pointers in the championship in playing his role. They were huge.
In the morning he hit two big free throws after the 91 percent free throw shooter clanked two earlier ones in the fourth quarter.
“It's exhilarating,” he said after the LaPorte game of his three treys against the Slicers. “You feel like you're losing consciousness. Everything feels like it's moving slow.”
As good as this team is, they haven't lost their sense of humor. Wideman had a quick quip about what he was thinking when he saw the game-winner sitting in front of the rim.
“I was thinking about a tip dunk,” he said with a big smile. “But if I would've missed I would've been in a lot of trouble.”
Two years ago, a younger Wideman might've tried to tip dunk it. He might've missed. Or if it went in the whole team might've started celebrating while Penn got a white-knuckle shot off.
But that was the old L.C. This is an entirely different squad.
Milausnic can still write “1984” on the chalkboard next Saturday. L.C.'s only semistate title also came in that year. One game from state. Can you feel the thrill?
“We didn't do this for us,” Wilburn said. “We did this for our school, our community.”
Maturity is a fun thing to watch grow.
BOURBON | The numbers speak for themselves. It’s simple Basketball 101. If you win the battle on the boards and win the turnover battle, you win the game — usually by a lot.
In the Class A Triton Regional final on Saturday night, Marquette out-rebounded North White 40-30 with 21 of those boards on the offensive end. The Blazers also turned the ball over just 11 times while benefitting from 25 miscues from the Vikings.
Add it all up and you can’t blame North White players, coaches and fans if they asked for the license plate number of the truck that ran them over in a 79-49 Marquette victory. It’s the first boys basketball regional title for the Blazers, who advance to either the Lafayette Jeff or Huntington North Semistate (to be announced on Sunday).
And to think that North White was actually up 23-17 midway through the second quarter before the Blazers’ express got rolling.
That boulder picking up speed down the mountain began with some old-fashioned hard work in the paint. Marquette (18-6) went on a 10-0 run with all five baskets coming on offensive rebound putbacks — two of them by Tyshaun Smallwood and the other three by Richard Mitchell, Kyren Miller and JoVonte Peals.
“We always practice boxing out and we try to all crash the boards hard,” said Smallwood, who finished with 12 points and seven rebounds — five of them offensive. “This is a beautiful feeling.”
It’s a joy to watch for coach Donovan Garletts, who was a little out of breath after racing all the way up to the second deck of bleachers to hug his wife, whom he called “the boss.” Then he had another word to describe Smallwood.
“Tyshaun’s a freak,” Garletts said. “And the scary thing is that he hasn’t found the weight room yet.
“Rebounding was the key for us in both games. North White has like a football team out there. They’re very skilled and they work for shots and we needed to limit those opportunities. We have four or five guys who really want to go after the boards. It’s a luxury we have, but we also practice hard at keeping the ball alive.”
After the surge of offensive rebounding, Marquette’s passing took center stage. Ryan Fazekas, the 6-foot-8 all-around player who has verbally committed to Providence, didn’t score his usual double figures — he actually went almost three full quarters between the four points he scored in the first quarter and four more points in the fourth — but was a passing machine to help the Blazers make history.
His signature play came with 4:51 left in the third quarter when he blocked a shot, grabbed the rebound, then rocketed a pass downcourt to Mitchell for an easy layup.
“I’ve always been able to pass like that. I just don’t get to do it enough,” said Fazekas, who finished with seven rebounds and five assists. “It feels great to do this for the school.”
Mitchell led the Blazers with 15 points, while Braxton Miller added 11 points on three 3-pointers made.
“Braxton was hitting 3s from all over the place,” Garletts said. “That was a big pick-me-up for us.”
WHEATFIELD | Bowman Academy coach Marvin Rea warned his players about Andrean. They said they listened.
“I tried to reinforce all week that (Andrean) is not going to be the same team,” Rea said.
The Niners, who lost 92-52 to the Eagles on Dec. 7, heard all week they had a slim chance against Bowman Academy in Saturday's Class 3A Kankakee Valley Regional semifinals.
The 59ers played like they didn’t want it to be their last game.
Bowman, the defending Class 2A state champ, finally showed its mettle and eliminated upset-minded Andrean 65-56 to advance to the championship against South Bend St. Joseph, which ousted Twin Lakes, 69-60.
“It’s regionals, no one wants to go home, they’re going to come at you,” Rea said. “… Andrean was very well prepared. They played hard. Hats off to them.”
Davon Dillard led Bowman (20-4) with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
“We knew they we’re going to play, and coach told us the team that wanted it the most will play the hardest,” he said. “Nobody wanted to go home.”
Known for its strong second halves, Bowman trailed 36-31 to start the third and opened with a 6-0 run to take a 37-36 with 5 minutes and 54 seconds left. Bowman held a slim 51-48 lead after three.
After Andrean got within 52-50, Bowman surged ahead 60-50 with 2:10 left with the help of two baskets by reserve guard Anthony Cole.
“Everybody that comes off the bench could start,” Cole said. “We have a rule that whomever comes off the bench, they have to give it their all.”
Andrean would get no closer than the final score.
“We knew that we had to go all out to beat these guys,” said Andrean senior Frank Podkul, who scored nine points. “This was our state championship.
‘Coach (Scott) Hicko kept it in our minds all year that we could play with anybody as long as we would go hard.”
Cole finished with 12 points for Bowman, while Justin King add six points and seven rebounds.
Nick Podkul led Andrean (13-10) with 15 points and seven boards.
“(Bowman’s) pressure is really good,” Hicko said. “They do what they do very well, and we handled it well in spots.
“In the fourth quarter they got their hands on some of the passes. We were a little hesitant, and that kind of took us out of our game.
“… They can put 12 points on the board in a matter of 30 seconds.”
BOURBON | Following two quarters of the Class 1A Triton Regional semifinal between Marquette Catholic and Fort Wayne Blackhawk, it was all tied up.
Then the Blazers put their shooting shoes on and lit up the Triton Trench gym in the third quarter, hitting 6-of-10 from 3-point range to pull away for a 70-49 victory.
In the other semifinal, North White edged Culver Community 70-69 in overtime.
Four Marquette players hit 3-pointers in the pivotal third period – two from Braxton Miller, one each from Richard Mitchell and Nathan Flores and two from Ryan Fazekas, who scored 12 of his game-high 21 points in the quarter.
“Obviously we were upset (with being tied at halftime), but we came out of the locker room positive,” said Fazekas, who also had six rebounds and three assists. “Coach (Donovan Garletts) told us we couldn’t shoot ourselves out of the game.”
Instead, the Blazers shot themselves to their first regional-game win and a chance at advancing to semistate.
The offense was decent in the first two quarters, balanced with eight players scoring for Marquette. But Blackhawk finished the first half on an 8-0 run to match the same run by Marquette (17-6).
Then the Blazers’ efficiency went through the roof after halftime.
“I didn’t think we took a bad shot all game,” Garletts said. “We just weren’t hitting (in the first half) and Blackhawk’s a good defensive team.”
That balance and depth is what ultimately doomed Blackhawk (16-10) as Marquette and its fresh legs finished the game on a 13-0 run.
“We played nine guys in the first half and they played six,” Garletts said. “I was confident we would wear them down.”
Mitchell finished with 15 points and eight assists, while Miller had 13 points, six rebounds and three steals. Tyshaun Smallwood was a beast inside for the Blazers with 11 rebounds. Wesley Davidson led Blackhawk with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
NORTH JUDSON | This was supposed to be the championship game, Saturday's Class 2A regional semifinal between Bishop Noll and Westview.
The winner in 86 of its last 93 games, Noll came in allowing 48.8 ppg.
Westview was on a nine-game roll, giving up 48.1 ppg., and had won 83 of its last 100 outings.
Once the dust cleared and the huge crowd at North Judson had cleared out, Noll was boarding its team bus a 75-64 loser in double overtime.
"We tried our best," said sophomore guard Roman Penn, fighting back tears. "Hopefully, we can get back here next year."
Shooting for its fifth regional title and the first since 2008, Westview struggled for 3 1/2 quarters against Noll before ending the fourth on a 15-3 run to force OT at 53-53.
That gave the visitors from Amish country new hope and a second wind to outscore Noll 19-8 in the second overtime.
Westview (21-4) put it away at the line, hitting 13 of 16 free throws and was 28 of 38 for the game.
Noll struggled again, finishing 7 of 18.
"That's been the case all year," Warriors coach Josh Belluomini said
Larry Crisler led Noll (21-4) with 23 points and five rebounds, Marquis Tarver had 18 points and Penn added nine.
"It's not an easy road," Penn said. "You have to work hard every day and not make mistakes or it's over.
"On that (late) run, we didn't communicate well as a group and our shots weren't dropping."
Despite a game-high 22 turnovers, scrappy Westview gained more confidence with every possession in the extra periods.
Forward Chandler Aspy did his best Mike Dunleavy, leaving the game briefly in the fourth quarter with a nasty gash over his left eye. His return ignited the crowd on the way to a 24-point, 10-rebound performance by the 6-foot-3 junior.
Westview center Judah Zickafoose spent much of the first half in foul trouble, but was huge in the fourth period with nine of his 17 points and 12 boards.
Jamar Weaver scored half his 14 points in the second OT. Jordyn Bontrager had 10 of his 14 points in the second half.
"They were very aggressive," Penn said of Aspy and Zickafoose. "They're good, offensively and defensively."
That fourth-quarter turnaround set Noll back on its heels, and any chances it had were dashed by its hurried shot selection in the decisive OT.
"We did such a good job at the end of the third quarter and early in the fourth of getting good shots," Belluomini said. "And then we couldn't.
"I told them all year that one bad game in the tournament and you're out. That's what happened."
Noll loses eight seniors off its 14-man tournament roster but Belluomini says the future remains bright.
"This is going to give us a lot of momentum going into next year," he said. "People think we're going to lose a lot but we have a lot of talent coming back."
MICHIGAN CITY | With LaPorte nursing a narrow third-quarter lead over Lake Central in Saturday's Class 4A Michigan City Regional, the Slicers' student section broke out the "overrated" cheer on Tyler Wideman.
The Indians' 6-foot-8 senior center scored seven points and assisted on another hoop in a 9-0 run that turned the tide of the game.
"It was important to get a good start in the third quarter," Wideman said. "It was too close for our liking. It started on the defensive end. We were getting stops and we were able to run."
The surge pushed L.C. in front and it fended off repeated charges by LaPorte, salting away a 70-60 victory at the free-throw line.
"We had some defensive breakdowns, but that's also a Division-I guy they're throwing it into," Slicers coach Tom Wells said. "Then (Matt) Meneghetti gets loose and knocks down a couple straight outside the arc and now our zone can't help on Wideman from that position. They're not 20-3 for nothing. They've got all the pieces to the puzzle."
Scoreless in the first half, L.C.'s Tye Wilburn picked up 10 points after the break, including a key and-one after LaPorte (16-8) had drawn within 56-54 inside the three-minute mark.
"We knew they would come out with a run," Wilburn said. "We feel like we're a better team when we're able to get the ball off the glass and run. We get most of our points off the fast break. Then our half-court offense starts to flow."
Wilburn's basket was the last hoop for L.C. (20-3), which scored its last 11 points at the free-throw line, including 6-of-6 by Joe Bannister.
"We used all our bullets," Wells said. "We put ourselves in a position where we had a chance. We put up a hell of a fight. Ultimately, it was probably their offensive rebounding and the free throw line (7 of 15) that did us in."
LaPorte's zone was effective in the first half, when the Indians went just 2 of 11 from the arc. It brought center Gage Ott out high to pull Wideman from the paint, opening the lane for Josh Fleming and Blake Arnett, who did most of their damage driving to the basket. Fleming poured in 23 points though he missed five of eight foul shots, including three in the fourth quarter. Arnett added 17 points and Ott managed 11 despite foul issues.
"Blake, oh my gosh," Wells said. "He saved his best for last. It's a kid who didn't want it to end. ... Our guards made pretty good decisions off the bounce. In this tournament run, we've been getting the seniors to step up and make plays."
Wideman's 15 points topped L.C. He added six rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Meneghetti picked up 11 points with three 3s and Tyson Ross nabbed seven boards to go with nine points.
"We knew it was going to be tough," Wideman said. "In a game like this, it's pretty important to do the little things like box out and hit our free throws. It all plays a big part."
LaPorte's points all came from its senior starting five.
"Ultimately, at the end of the day, it's not about the championship. It's about the journey and now it's come to an end. The train stops," Wells said. "Honestly, I haven't been on this fun a ride and I've been (coaching) a long time. It says a lot about the kids. It's the closest and one of the best groups of seniors I've had in a long time. It hurts a little bit. They've sacrificed a lot, given a lot. Their success was very deserving. I'm really proud of 'em."
ST. JOHN | Everyone knows that Lake Central's offense starts and runs through seniors Tyler Wideman and Tye Wilburn, three-year starters with a ton of talent and experience.
But the same thing occurred last winter and those Indians were not where these Indians are today. Something has changed as L.C. (19-3) takes on LaPorte (16-7) in today's Class 4A Michigan City Regional.
The winner will take on the winner of the Penn (22-1) and Concord (15-8) game tonight for a chance to make it to the coveted semistate.
"We felt like we were playing pretty good basketball the last five games of last season," L.C. coach Dave Milausnic said. "We've just tried to carry that over this year and they've done a good job doing that from day one."
The biggest difference from last year to this year is senior leadership and players accepting their roles. Seven seniors are on the Indians' roster, led by Wilburn and Wideman.
But 6-foot-5 senior wing man Tyler Ross has upped his game for his last go-round. Ross averages 8.7 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Like other Indians, he seems to be in the right place at the right time. All the time.
"I think Tyler appreciates the game more and he knows it's a blessing to work hard every day and have a chance to compete," Milausnic said.
Ross grew five inches in his time at L.C. But his sophomore year he stepped on a bounce pass while running the floor at practice and chipped a bone in his knee and had a screw put in there to help it heal.
He missed most of that season and was never 100 percent last year.
"This year has been great," Ross said. "We have a lot of seniors and we're playing with a positive attitude. It keeps everyone motivated. We all know what last year felt like when we lost (to Munster) in the sectional championship.
"We don't want to feel that again."
Junior guard Joe Bannister is another player on this team who could be averaging 15 points somewhere else. But the point guard is happy scoring 6.6 points a game, with two rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.9 rebounds.
He is also happy being the Indians' wet blanket on defense, always guarding the best player on the other team.
Growing up in South Holland, Munster, Merrillville and then Dyer, Bannister was a baseball and track guy early.
"Then, one day a light switched on," Bannister said. "Basketball became my game."
His mother sat him down with a note pad and he took notes watching players like Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Trey Burke play the game. The ink made its way onto the basketball floor and the rest is history.
"I'm more relaxed about my game now," Bannister said. "I'm doing whatever I have to do to help my team win games. I'd rather do the little things that helps my team win than score a lot of points.
"Winning is the most important thing to me."
Lake Central beat the Slicers, 65-46, on Jan. 10. And it was in dominating fashion. But Milausnic, Ross and Bannister know one thing. LaPorte is playing its best basketball of the season, winning their first sectional since 2006.
The Slicers' Josh Fleming is the real deal, for sure.
"We've learned things this year," Bannister said. "We kind of looked past Valpo and they almost beat us. We won't do that again. Every game, every practice, is the most important thing you have. It's a regional game. We'll be pumped and ready."
"It's our first morning game of the year," Ross said. "So we'll wake up early and do everything to be ready. LaPorte has improved a lot. So we'll have to be ready."
Lake Central (19-3) vs. LaPorte (16-7), 10 a.m.
Penn (21-1) vs. Concord (15-8), approx. noon.
Championship, 7 p.m.
Favorite: Penn. Darkhorse: Lake Central.
Players to watch: CONCORD -- Filip Serwatka, 6-5, Jr. (15.8 ppg., 6.4 rpg.); Ramon Johnson, 5-9, Sr. (19.3 ppg., 4.3 apg. 2.1 spg.); Adam Glanders, 6-2, Sr. 8.8 ppg.); LAKE CENTRAL -- Tyler Wideman, 6-7, Sr. (15.8 ppg., 7.4 rpg.,1.5 bpg.); Tye Wilburn, 5-11, Sr. (12.3 ppg., 4.5 apg., 4.0 rpg., 2.8 spg.); Tyson Ross, 6-6, Sr. (8.7 ppg., 5.5 rpg.); Matt Meneghetti, 5-10, Sr., (7.5 ppg., 48 3s). LAPORTE -- Josh Fleming, 5-10, Sr. (19.9 ppg., 3.8 apg., 3.3 spg.); Gage Ott, 6-6, Sr., (16.8 ppg., 6.9 rpg.); Jacob Jones, 6-0, Sr. (10.1 ppg., 59 3s). PENN -- Billy Doslak, 6-0, Jr.; Jordan Geist, 6-1, Jr.; Ryan Lutz, 6-3, Jr.; Taylor Brooks, 6-6, Sr.
Fast facts: Lake Central defeated LaPorte 65-46 on Jan. 10. ... Penn defeated Concord 66-48 on Dec. 13. ... Concord defeated LaPorte 72-67 on Jan. 31. ... None of the teams were in the field last year. ... Penn (2006) is the most recent of the schools to win a regional. ... Lake Central's only regional title came in 1984. ... Penn was ranked sixth and Lake Central eighth in the final coaches poll. -- Jim Peters, Times Sports Writer
GARY | It is not how you start. It is how you finish.
And this old saying perfectly fits the life of Bowman Academy senior guard Darrion Riddle. A very tough beginning with pain and lamentations was followed by a surprise of love and support.
"My daddy was killed when I was 3," Riddle said of his early days growing up in Gary. "Someone shot him dead."
Such a tragic genesis has caused many others to follow a dangerous path. But Riddle's aunt and uncle — Mattie Whetsell and James Puckett — opened their arms and home to the youngster and have set his road straight.
"They've given everything to me," Riddle said. "They mean the world to me. They've always been there."
Riddle is averaging just five points a game for third-ranked Bowman. The Eagles' roster is filled with big names with big games. Justin King. Davon Dillard. Arthur Haggard.
These D-I standouts are on the first sheet every opposing team's scouting report. Riddle, however, is No. 1 on coach Marvin Rea's self-analyses.
"Darrion is the glue to this team," Rea said. "He is our coach on the floor. He is a constant. Other guys have good games or bad games. Darrion does not. He shows up for every game."
Most players called "The Glue" of a team have a higher career scoring record than 12. But that's Riddle's career scoring mark. His career assist record is 13. He had 11 steals in Bowman's 117-78 win over Lew Wallace in Saturday's Class 3A Hammond Sectional final.
Bowman (19-4) will play Andrean (13-9) in Saturday's Kankakee Valley Regional semifinal.
You don't have to score when you do everything else. Riddle always guards the other team's top player. He held E.C. Central's Hyron Edwards to 12 points, a rarity.
"His game is ugly, he's not athletic at all," Rea said of Riddle. "It isn't pretty at all. But he's like a Big Ten guard. He's strong and tough. He could play anywhere from the one to the four.
"The kid is the definition of Bowman basketball. He'll fight and grind it out to get the win."
When the 6-foot Riddle was in kindergarten, his older brother was coaching a 6th-grade team. Darrion went to the practices, got a jersey and played with the older boys.
That helped jump-start his game.
It isn't how you start. It's how you finish.
Bowman was losing to Lew Wallace at halftime. The Eagles came out of a quiet locker room and scored a remarkable 75 points in the second half, led by Riddle.
"Coach told us it was either win or go home," Riddle said. "We did not want to go home. We took it upon ourselves to turn it up. We played defense. We hit the open man. We have to be ready for Andrean. We can't come out flat. We know they're a better team than we played (in December).
"It's win or go home. We want to win and keep going."
MERRILLVILLE | Parker Huttel has spent a lot of time in the summer from coast to coast, playing high level travel baseball.
But whether he's in Virginia, Texas or Arizona, one thing is always tucked away with the bat bag.
"I try to shoot every chance I get," Huttel said.
That was a philosophy the 5-foot-10 junior guard at Andrean has used this winter. Get ball. Shoot ball. Then, shoot ball again.
After an awful start, the 59ers grew together as a team and won the Class 3A Kankakee Valley Sectional on Saturday. That's the good news.
On the other end of the spectrum, Andrean (13-9) will play Bowman Academy (19-4) back at K.V. in the regional semifinal. The Eagles (19-4) beat the 59ers 92-52 on the infamous date of Dec. 7.
"I've played baseball my whole life, it's my first love," Huttel said. "But I've always loved basketball more. I have more of a heart for it. It's a sport where I can show off my athleticism more."
An Honor Roll student and member of the National Honor Society, Huttel said he is happy to be playing anything at all right now. In a game against Merrillville as a freshman, he landed awkwardly and tore his ACL.
Dr. Donald Shelbourne did the surgery in Indianapolis and three months later Huttel was pitching in a game.
"I've never had a problem since the surgery," Huttel said. "It actually feels stronger now."
The 2013-14 Andrean basketball season has been well documented. The 59ers first three losses — Lake Central (79-37), Crown Point (78-43 and Bowman (92-52) — were brutal.
The graduation of nine seniors and a late start for football players due to a trip to the state championship game put first-year coach Scott Hicko and his staff in a bind. But things calmed down and the program has won eight of its last 10 games.
"Parker is our Energizer Bunny," Hicko said. "He moves well off the ball. He has an old-fashioned jump shot. He actually elevates when he shoots. He has a great understanding of the game. He's done a great job doing what we've asked him to do."
Huttel is averaging 10 points a game and has hit 25 3-pointers. Huttel, like the rest of the team, will be counted on to handle the ball against Bowman's pressure, which is nearly nuclear.
A young, poor Andrean team was only down 10 against the Eagles at halftime of their matchup earlier this season. Hicko believes his team is much better now.
"We have to handle their initial press, break that and get some good shots," Hicko said. "Their pressure is tremendous. Our guys need to know where they need to be. We have to pass the ball and not dribble too much.
"Our kids have the confidence to play with these guys."
Huttel agrees. Andrean's been running against seven defenders at practice trying to replicate Bowman's defense.
"We can't rush too much," Huttel said. "We have to play our game. I believe we can play with these guys."
There's a calming presence that Josh Fleming conveys, a relaxed demeanor that makes those around him feel like everything's going to be OK.
"It's a very quiet confidence," LaPorte coach Tom Wells said. "He's got that easy smile. It's uplifting."
On the basketball court, Fleming is the peace amid the chaos, an extension of his personality off the floor.
"I've always been that way," Fleming said. "I usually don't let things get to me. I carry that on from my every-day life. I try to keep my emotions where I don't let them affect the way I play the game. If a guy gets close up into me, tries to frustrate me, I try to stay calm. When you have a strong mindset, they can't get in your head."
Wells has certainly tried. He uses advantage-disadvantage situations in practice to challenge his senior point guard, but Fleming's feathers never ruffle.
"His competitiveness is out of sight. He hates to lose," Wells said. "But he just lets his play speak for itself. If we get a bad call, he'll just smile and look over at me. I trust him like he's my own. He's trusted with the basketball. I trust him with everything. He's mature beyond his years."
Fleming has been that way since the day Wells brought him up early in his freshman season and threw him right into the lineup. Fleming handled the deep end of the pool from the beginning and has been a fixture since.
"That brought my confidence up a lot," Fleming said. "I went from playing with 13-, 14-year olds to people who are 17, 18. It made me smarter, a stronger player."
Over three years later, Fleming ranks first in steals, third in assists and sixth in scoring on LaPorte's career list.
"He's very unseflish, sometimes almost to a fault," Wells said. "You're kicking around names like (Greg) Tonagel and (Steve) Drabyn. That kind of company is pretty select in Slicer lore."
And Fleming's earned every bit of it. Blessed with good, if not great raw skills, Fleming had to hone his craft to reach the special level so few attain.
"When I first started, I was the smallest guy on the team," he said. "I wasn't even a starter."
That changed by middle school, when the makings of the player he is now began to come together. Fleming handles the ball like it's on a string. Despite his average stature, 6-foot on his tip toes, he drives to the rim without hesitation, and never thinks twice about taking a big shot.
"Attacking the basket has always been the best part of my game," Fleming said. "Even in sixth grade, I was like I am now. I was never afraid, no matter how small I was or how big they were."
Fleming plays so much basketball, Wells sometimes worries how the 18-year old legs will hold up, knowing Fleming often has to log entire games.
"He's a gym rat," Wells said. "He just spends a tremendous amount of time. He's a lunch-time legend in the fieldhouse. I ask him, when do you get off your feet? I had to take the ball away."
That's something nobody was able to do in the Class 4A Valparaiso Sectonal, where Fleming guided the Slicers to their first title since 2006.
"It was really exciting," he said. "I could be a lot more vocal, but I've tried to be more of a leader. If we had a big moment and somebody needed to make a big play, I either stepped up and made it or I encouraged someone else to do it."
As much as LaPorte will miss Fleming on the court next season, he'll be missed just as much off of it.
"Everybody loves him," Wells said. "Every kid wants to partner with him, have their locker by his, sit with him on the bus. Freshman, JV or Gage (Ott), his best friend, it doesn't matter. That tells you a lot about his character."
It all began for LaPorte's senior class over eight years ago.
"We were in the fourth grade," Josh Fleming recalled. "It was a Wednesday night. One of my friend's dads called and asked me if I wanted to be on an AAU team."
Fleming said yes and while it's not so simple as to say the rest is history, it was the origin of the group's connection on the basketball court.
"Obviously, not everybody from then still plays, but we've grown up really close friends," Fleming said of classmates Gage Ott, Blake Arnett, Miles Browder, Jacob Jones and Logan Dubbs. "It's really fun, especially knowing that I get to play another week with some of my best friends."
Fleming led the senior-laden Slicers to the Class 4A Valparaiso Sectional title last week, LaPorte's first since 2006.
"This group of seniors has been looking forward to this for a long time," Wells said. "They've been through some tough years but, I've said it before, they've never shortchanged me in terms of effort Monday through Thursday. They've got that determined look."
The dry spell was even more profound for the seniors, who hadn't experienced as much as a sectional victory during their high school careers, ending each season with more losses than wins. Fleming came up a ninth-grader, so he endured it first hand. Ott followed him to varsity as a sophomore, the others as juniors.
"Starting off as freshmen, we thought we'd have a pretty good team," Fleming said. "We thought we had a chance to win a sectional. Every year, we'd lost in the first round. We didn't want to go out like that. It was a different mindset. We played team offense, team defense. I think we deserved a sectional championship."
One of the side perks of winning was gathering at the Wells' house for Laura Wells' lasagna Thursday. Tom was looking forward to it not just because he had given up sweets for Lent, but for the opportunity to gather the gang at least once more.
"They're positive kids who love to be together and are so fun to be around," Wells said. "It keeps you young."
The moments are particularly special at this point, when finality awaits at every game.
"We're a team, not only on the court, but off it," Fleming said. "We're always doing bonding stuff outside of school. We're there for each other."
They will be again Saturday when the Slicers (16-7) face Lake Central (19-3) in the Michigan City Regional. LaPorte has nothing on the Indians in terms of seniority, facing a veteran group that's likewise come up through the ranks together.
"LC beat us by 19 in January. We weren't ready for that game," Fleming said. "Winning the sectional gave us a lot of confidence. We're coming into the regional playing at a high level. We feel like we can compete with anybody. We know we can come out with the win if we play hard enough and we deserve it."
Right now, Saturday is all that matters. After that, or whenever the season happens to end, it'll be the journey rather than the destination that will be remembered.
No. 3 Bowman Academy (19-4) vs. Andrean (13-9), 9 a.m.
Twin Lakes (16-7) vs. South Bend St. Joseph (17-6), 11:30 a.m.
Championship, 7:30 p.m.
Favorite: Bowman Academy. Darkhorse: South Bend St. Joseph's.
Players to watch: BOWMAN ACADEMY --Justin King, 6-7, Sr. (15.2 ppg.); Davon Dillard, 6-6, Jr. (16.7 ppg.); Arthur Haggard, 6-3, Sr. (13 ppg.); Darrion Riddle, 6-0, Sr. (5 ppg.); Austen Daniels, 5-10, Sr. (4 ppg.); Anthony Cole, 6-1, Sr. (9.7 ppg). ANDREAN -- Parker Huttel, 5-10, Jr. (10 ppg.); Nick Podkul, 6-2, Jr. (12 ppg.); Frank Podkul, 6-3, Sr. (8 ppg.); Ben Davidson, 5-10, Jr. (10 ppg.). TWIN LAKES -- Cameron Bennington, 6-2, Sr. (12.7 ppg.); Tyler Reddington, 6-2, Sr. (10.5 ppg.); Tanner Pritts, 5-10, Sr. (10 ppg.). SOUTH BEND ST. JOSEPH'S -- Anthony Smiley, 6-0, Jr.; Greenan Sullivan, 6-2, Jr.
Fast facts: Andrean broke the Plymouth curse last year by winning the regional, the school's first since 2000. ... Bowman Academy has won its last two regionals, but those were at the Class 2A level. ... Bowman beat Andrean 92-52 on Dec. 7 in Gary. Justin King led the way with 27 points, Arthur Haggard had 15m while Anthony Cole and Akil McClain each had 12. No 59er scored in double figures. ... St. Joe's Greenan Sullivan had 23 points at halftime of his team's 56-49 overtime win over Mishawaka Marian in the sectional championship. ... Seven seniors helped lead Twin Lakes in winning 13 of the last 15 games, their 65-57 win over Western ended a nine-year sectional drought on Monday night. -- Steve Hanlon, Times Sports Writer
HAMMOND | On paper, it seemed like it would be easier, that Indiana tradition of climbing up ladders in March.
Marquis Tarver was a freshman at Bishop Noll in 2011. He was on the roster that advanced to Indianapolis to play in the Class 2A state championship game. He did not dress when the Warriors lost a heart-breaker to Indianapolis Park Tudor, 43-42.
"It was exciting anyway, watching all my friends in that position," Tarver said after Tuesday's practice in Hammond.
Tarver was on the floor the next two years when Noll lost to Bowman Academy in the 2A sectional championship game. Bowman went to state both years. The Eagles moved up a class and are still alive in the 3A tournament.
And the Warriors are in the 2A field. Noll (21-3) will play Westview (20-4) in the Class 2A North Judson Regional on Saturday. The winner will get the Woodlan (18-6)-Winamac (14-8) winner in Saturday night's championship game.
So finally winning a sectional title, one might think, would have Tarver and his mates looking for a firetruck and some cupcakes, right?
Not even close.
"I was happy we won our sectional," said Tarver of Noll's 65-52 win over Whiting at Hebron on Saturday night. "All it was was a start on the road where we want to get to. We heard a lot of outside people talking, saying we were glad Bowman was out of our sectional.
"But if they were still in our sectional I believe we'd have won it anyway."
The 5-foot-10 point guard turned shooting guard grew up on the east side of Hammond, in Hammond High's district. He said his mother enrolled him at Noll to get him away from some friends who were negative influences.
The parochial setting has been good for Tarver, who averages 12.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.9 steals for the fifth-ranked Warriors. First-year coach Josh Belluomini has reveled in the maturation.
Last year with Tarver at the point everyone collapsed in the defense because no one believed he could shoot and he rarely showed them otherwise. But a summer in the gym got his perimeter touch going and Noll's offense changed.
"We wanted to get Marquis some shots and he wasn't getting them at the point," Belluomini said. "He is strong for a kid his size. He rebounds very well for a guard."
Belluomini knows his team has a tough first-round opponent. Noll beat Westview 51-41 in the 2011 regional final. The Warriors have good players and play an intelligent game, like most teams from that part of the state.
"They are such a smart team," Belluomini said. "They have different kids but they run the same offense as in 2011. They are well-coached and we're going to have to be ready."
Tarver and his mates want to climb another ladder on Saturday night. But they don't want a parade just yet. They want that to wait a few more weeks.
"It's just another stop on the road we want to stay on," Tarver said. "We want to get to state. We want to get to Indianapolis."
Woodlan (18-6) vs. Winamac (14-8), 10 a.m.
No. 5 Bishop Noll (21-3) vs. Westview (20-4), 11:30 a.m., WRTW-FM (90.5), regionsports.com
Championship, 7:30 p.m.
Favorite: Bishop Noll. Darkhorse: Westview.
Players to watch: WOODLAN -- Jaylin Bennett, 6-5, Sr.; Greg White, 5-9, Sr.; Kadin Gerig, 6-2, Sr.; Jeffery Jones, 5-9, Jr. WINAMAC -- Parker Fox, 5-11, Jr. (12 ppg.); Colin McGee, 6-3, So. (6.9 ppg.); Jeremy Bentle, 6-5, Sr. (6.8 ppg.); Derek Dotlich, 6-2, Sr. (6.4 ppg.). BISHOP NOLL -- Larry Crisler, 6-5, Sr. (16.2 ppg.); Tyreon Gates, 6-5, Sr. (13.6 ppg); Marquis Tarver, 5-10, Sr. (12.9 ppg); Roman Penn, 5-10, So. (5.2 ppg.). WESTVIEW -- Jamar Weaver, Sr., G; Chandler Aspy Jr., G; Judah Zickafoose, C.
Fast facts: Westview has lost to a region team in the last two regionals the program has played in, 2011 (Bishop Noll) and 2012 (Bowman Academy). ... Woodlan won its first sectional championship since 1997 when it beat Fort Wayne Canterbury 71-67 on Monday, with the game delayed because of Canterbury's girls playing in the state championship. ... Winimac won its first sectional title in 12 years in beating North Judson 69-50 in the Rensselaer Sectional final. ... Bishop Noll won its 14th sectional title and is 9-0 against 2A schools this season. -- Steve Hanlon, Times Sports Writer
Marquette High School is a short 4-mile drive across town from Michigan City High School.
For Richie Mitchell, it may as well have been on the other side of the world.
"It was a lot different coming in," said Mitchell, who transferred to the small catholic school in 2012.
Mitchell was a public-school student through his sophomore year, when he played and started some games for the Wolves.
The basketball experience, he said, wasn't an issue, but Mitchell was looking for more from the academic side.
"Educationally, I thought it was better for my future," he said of Marquette. "It was the main reason I came here to check it out. I wanted to stay close to Michigan City. I talked to the coach (Donovan Garletts) and I liked it, so I decided to make the move. It was just a better spot for me. My time at (M.C.) helped me realize it."
Leaving old friends at one school and making new ones at another, all while joining a new team, wasn't an immediate process for Mitchell. In time, he settled in, both on and off the court.
"I definitely made the right decision," Mitchell said. "It helped my grades. It's easier to focus here. It's a lot better environment. It's all about school. I've learned a lot of my life lessons."
As a private school, Marquette doesn't benefit from having players who grew up at the same school on the same team. It is not bounded by districts. Mitchell's arrival coincided with that of Braxton Miller, who came from NorthWood, and Nathan Flores, who came from Lake Station.
"The school is really focused on getting kids accepted in the college of their choice, not just college," assistant coach Jim Bracewell said. "If you don't get the grades, you don't play. When Richie walked in here, it was like a fresh beginning. We didn't dwell on Michigan City at all. It was matter of him getting comfortable with the coaching staff and vice versa."
Mitchell shared time at point guard last season and took over the position this year.
"I feel a lot more comfortable, knowing what's expected of me," he said. "My role on the team is to be a playmaker, take it to the basket and if they stop me, dish it off. I think I can do a little of both."
Third in the Blazers' balanced lineup in scoring (11.5 ppg.), Mitchell leads the teams in assists (3.6 per game) and free throws, where he has made 66 of 76 (87 percent). In the Class A Morgan Township Sectional championship victory over 21st Century, Mitchell poured in 24 points, 14 of them coming at the foul line.
"I didn't want it to be my last game," Mitchell said. "It was a motivational thing. It felt amazing. It's something I've never felt before. It was a good moment. I'll remember it forever."
As happy as he is with Mitchell's progress on the floor, Bracewell is even happier to see him develop outside of basketball.
"He's adjusted very well academically," Bracewell said. "When he came here, he was very quiet. He still is quiet, but there's more interaction with the other players, where last year, he kind of did his own thing. He makes sure he gets all five guys involved. It's fun to see an adolescent mature, to come along as a player as well as a nice, young man."
Chesterton (12-10): The Trojans defeated Valparaiso 45-37 in the opening round of the Class 4A Valparaiso Sectional last week, marking only the second time in the last 23 years that they have beaten the Vikings twice in the same season. Senior Cole Teal scored a season-high 23 points to lead the way. Teal moved into an 18th-place tie on the Trojans scoring list with 1974 grad Joe Gifford. Chesterton was eliminated by eventual sectional champion LaPorte, 71-58.
Hebron (13-10): The Hawks opened Class 2A Hebron Sectional play with a 38-35 win over defending champion Boone Grove but fell to Whiting 47-43 in the semifinals. Junior Bryce Hanaway scored 11 points against the Oilers to bring his career total to 400.
Kouts (16-5): The Mustangs topped Westville 69-57 in the opening round of the Class A Morgan Township Sectional before being eliminated for the second year in a row by 21st Century, 82-71. Senior Jake Bekelya, with back-to-back 30-point efforts, became the 61st player in Kouts history to reach the 500-point plateau. Senior Matt Stewart tossed in nine points in the two games to become the 30th player in Kouts history to reach the 700-point mark. Senior Cody Nelson totaled 47 points in the two games, moving into 33rd on the Kouts scoring list, behind 1979 grad Jeff Sandberg. Bekelya (21.5) and Nelson (17.3) became the first Kouts duo to average at least 17 points per game since the combo of Jake Wade (25.9) and Josh Kain (21.2) in 1996.
Morgan Township (10-10): The host Cherokees dropped an 80-51 decision to 21st Century in the opening round at Morgan. Sophomore Jake Koselke led the way with 24 points and finished the year with 555 career points, which ranks as the 10th-highest total for a 10th-grader in Porter County history. The combo of Koselke (18.3) and junior Chase Braden (16.2) became the first pair to average at least 16 points per games since the duo of Shawn Nicklas (21.6) and Brett Spratley (17.0) in 1990.
Portage (13-11): Coach Rick Snodgrass’ Indians defeated Hobart 64-57 in the opening round of the Valparaiso Sectional before being eliminated by Michigan City, 64-49, in the semifinals. They were able to record the first winning season at Portage since 2004. Senior Mike Lattanzi notched a career-high 16 points against the Brickies.
South Central (5-16): The Satellites edged Oregon-Davis, 31-29, in the opening round of the Class A Triton Sectional before falling to Argos, 75-51, in the semifinals. Junior Mark Richards matched his personal best with 18 points against the Dragons and moved over the 400 mark to 407. Sophomore Max Clemons added a career-best 12 points.
Washington Township (16-6): The Senators defeated Covenant Christian 67-49 in the opening round of the Morgan Sectional before being eliminated by Marquette Catholic 75-62 in the semifinals. For the second consecutive year, the Senators, under the direction of coach Scott Bowersock, recorded their best record (16-6) in school history. They topped the 16-7 mark of last year. The Senators also had four players in double figures for the first time since 1998. Sophomore Nathan Line totaled 32 points in the two sectional games to move over the 200 mark to 221. Sophomore Alex Perez tallied 11 points against Marquette to move over the 300 mark to 303. Senior Bryce Pappas added six points to go over the 200 mark to 202.
Westville (13-9): Sophomore Josh Brownlee knocked in 13 points in a loss to Kouts to move over the 200 mark to 211. The Blackhawks finished with four players in double figures for the first time since 1989.
Wheeler (6-14): Junior Austin Greiner scored 14 points in a 58-34 loss to New Prairie in the opening game of the Class 3A Kankakee Valley Sectional to move over the 400 mark to 406.
Culver Community (16-7) vs. North White (16-8), 9:30 a.m.
No. 3 Marquette Catholic (16-6) vs. Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian (16-9), approx. 11:15 a.m.
Championship, 7 p.m.
Favorite: Marquette Catholic. Darkhorse: Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian.
Players to watch: CULVER COMMUNITY -- Trent Elliott, 6-5, Sr.; FORT WAYNE BLACKHAWK CHRISTIAN -- Will Davidson, 6-2, So.; Wesley Davison, 6-4, Jr.; Joey Morlan, 6-5, Jr.; Riley Reimschisel, 5-10, Jr.; MARQUETTE CATHOLIC -- Ryan Fazekas, 6-8, Jr. (13.3 ppg., 7.8 rpg., 1.3 spg.); Nathan Flores, 5-10, Sr. (12.0 ppg, 1.9 spg.); Richie Miller, 6-0, Sr. (11.5 ppg., 3.6 apg.); Braxton Miller, 6-0, Jr. (8.6 ppg., 3.2 apg); NORTH WHITE -- Connor Cain, 6-2, So.; Drake Fleck, 5-8, Sr.; Caleb Hendress, 5-11, So.
Fast facts: Marquette and North White have never won a regional. ... Blackhawk lost in the regional finals to Bowman Academy in 2010. ... Blackhawk defeated No. 4 in Elkhart Christian in double overtime in the sectional semifinals. ... Culver defeated 2013 champion Triton in the sectional semifinals.
Directions: Take U.S. 30 east to Indiana 331; merge onto Indiana 331/Main Street toward Bourbon; turn left onto Shaffer Road, then right onto Triton Drive.
Spencer Greer said he can finally tell his daughter Amy that he has caught up with her.
Greer, a 1956 Morton grad, will enter the Hammond Sports Hall of Fame tonight after 35 years as an educator, coach and athletic director at Spohn Middle School in Hammond.
His daughter Amy, was a volleyball and track and field standout at Bishop Noll, and volleyball standout at Valparaiso University. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
"I told her she can't tease me about that anymore," said Greer, who has been married to his wife, Carol, for 50 years and also have two sons, Keith and Tim, plus three grandchildren.
"I made it and this is a great honor, not just for me, but for everyone from my generation. My class, we were the first to go for years at Morton when it became a four-year high school."
Before that, Morton went to the 10th grade, with students transferring to Hammond High for 11th grade.
Greer played football for Maurey Zlotnik at Morton and also basketball. He walked on to Southeast Missouri State then joined the Marine Corps and was stationed in Long Beach, Calif.
Greer taught a year in Fithian, Ill., then completed his degree at Indiana State after spending a year at St. Joseph's College (now Calumet College) when it was in East Chicago.
He started at what was then a new Spohn Middle School. He coached various sports and served as the school's athletic director. Greer had the distinction of starting at the school when it opened and retired when it closed in 2002.
"A lot of people thought I was crazy for wanting to coach middle school kids, teenagers," Greer said. "I loved it. I had a great time at Spohn and we had great kids and great teachers and coaches."
The kids at that age were developing socially and physically.
"That is the age where you can really teach and influence," Greer said. "We had 1,000 kids in 6th, 7th and 8th grads. In football, we had 100 kids out and equipment for just 60. Man, did we have the talent come through that school."
A few years later, Eggers Middle School opened and several kids went there. Spohn fed Hammond, Hammond Tech and Clark high schools.
"Thirty-five years at Spohn, I can't complain," Greer said.
HAMMOND | So how do you beat the champion? Short jabs? Quick stomach blows followed by a rope-a-dope hoping to win the bout on points?
Nope, you have knock out the champ. It's been that way for a century.
Four-time consecutive Class 3A sectional champion Lew Wallace looked Bowman Academy straight in the eye on Saturday night and the Hornets did not blink.
El Dub gave the 2A state champs and No. 2 3A Eagles everything it had. For a half, anyway. But the 16 minutes of in-your-face basketball was impressive.
Interim coach Brandon Scott had his team ready.
Aarion Green had 16 points in the first quarter, 21 at half as the Hornets held a lead. Green finished with 32. Keontae Bridges scored 25.
“We came out to play,” Green said after his team lost 117-78 to Bowman.
“We not scared of anybody,” Bridges said.
It's been a tough year in Glen Park. Coach Melvin Yancey has been off the bench and out since early December with a health issue.
Green did not become eligible until February. Bridges had appendicitis and was out for five weeks. Two starters were ruled ineligible right before postseason.
But the Hornets had Bowman coach Marvin Rea talking, especially at halftime when he team trailed 44-42 at the Hammond Civic Center.
“I told my guys they better wake up or we're going to have another Morgan Township night,” Rea said of his team's upset by the Cherokees in the 2011 Class A sectional final.
“Wallace played great,” Rea continued. “I told (Scott) he should be proud. They fought for you today. They have no reason to hang their heads.”
The Hornets handled the press in the first half. Bowman turned it up a notch and scored 40 points in the third quarter. The Eagles had 28 steals and forced 36 turnovers, most in the second half.
“I'm very proud of my guys,” Scott said. “They did not back down. They played with everything they had.”
That is something Bowman can learn from as it embarks on its annual trip to Indianapolis. But first, a chip needs to be implanted on its shoulders.
“Nobody gave us a chance,” Green said. “We wanted to prove everyone wrong.”
“Everybody was picking them, we wanted to win this sectional,” Bridges added.
These two young men are very talented. They just got beat by a deeper, better team.
Keep your heads up, gentlemen.
People will be talking about what you did for years to come, no matter what the scoreboard said.
Eagles, better wake up. A lot of people don't think you can win in 3A. They'll be ready to take jabs at you.
You're the champ, but a knockout is within your grasp.
MORGAN TWP. | In a classic back-and-forth Indiana high school basketball game, momentum can swing one way or another at a moment’s notice.
On Saturday night at Morgan Twp., momentum swung in favor of Marquette early in the fourth quarter.
The Blazers outscored 21st Century by 11 points in the final period en route to a 72-57 win in the sectional championship game.
It is Marquette’s first boys basketball sectional title since 2000 and just the second in program history.
The Blazers (16-6) took the lead for good late in the third quarter on a Braxton Miller 3-pointer. The score remained close until midway through the fourth, when the Marquette defense locked down and held 21st Century without a field goal for nearly two minutes.
Over the final 1:15, the Blazers outscored 21st Century 8-2.
Marquette sealed the game at the free throw line, hitting 13-of-16 attempts from the stripe over the final three-and-a-half minutes, including a 9-for-10 effort from Richard Mitchell.
“We really work on discipline towards the end of games when we have leads,” Marquette coach Donovan Garletts said. “That’s the huge advantage and I think just a lovely piece of Indiana high school basketball: there’s no shot clock.
"People argue there’s not high enough scores or there’s not fast-paced games; you can’t tell me that game wasn’t fast-paced.”
Mitchell led the Blazers with a game-high 24 points, going 14 for 16 overall from the free throw line. Miller added 17 and Ryan Fazekas scored 10.
The second quarter featured three ties and eight lead changes before Marquette went on a 7-2 run including four straight points from Ryan Fazekas to end the half with a 32-28 lead.
The Cougars benefited from a late turnover and a layup at the buzzer by Dejuan Pinkin to cut the lead to four.
Eugene German led the Cougars (15-6) with 20 points. Pinkin added 10. Both players fouled out late in the fourth quarter.
WHEATFIELD | Around water coolers, message boards and opposing locker rooms, a familiar question resounded.
Is Andrean any good?
After three season-opening blowout losses, albeit to bigger schools, the answer was no.
The caveat: 12 seniors were gone, along with head coach Carson Cunningham.
The word “rebuilding” applied.
A six-game winning streak ensued. Two of the rotation players who had to adjust from playing on fake grass football fields to a hard court were back, and the answer to the familiar question was a resounding "maybe."
With the postseason full of sound and fury and signifying everything, the Fighting 59ers won their sectional, defeating New Prairie 73-61 Saturday night in the Class 3A Kankakee Valley Sectional.
The 59ers cut down the nets following the sectional for a fifth consecutive season.
They’ll return to a re-netted Kankakee Valley next Saturday for the regional, where they’ll open with Bowman Academy.
This program doesn’t have rebuilding years -- maybe a rebuilding month or a rebuilding semester.
“It’s very special,” Andrean coach Scott Hicko said Friday. “This group has worked harder than any group I’ve ever been around. They definitely earned the right to play in a sectional final.”
Andrean (13-9) picked up the press just outside the 10-second line and beat the Cougars (13-9) the way New Prairie had been beating teams earlier in the week, with transition baskets off of steals.
“We wanted to show that even though we lost all these seniors, we can win a sectional, too,” Andrean senior Ramon Guerrero said after Friday’s semifinal win over Knox.
While Guerrero and Frank Podkul, the only two seniors for Andrean, were mired in foul trouble, juniors Nick Podkul, Parker Huttel and Ben Davidson took turns dropping big shots in for the 59ers.
Nick Podkul was ferocious in a 31-point fourth quarter, connecting on all eight of his free throws to post 12 of his team-high 19 points in the quarter. Brother Frank added eight in the quarter and 12 for the game, matching Huttel’s total.
New Prairie’s Jasen Webb scored 22 points, finishing with 68 for the tournament, but Andrean never allowed him to take over the game. The 59ers also held the Cougars to seven 3-pointers, including three desperation ones in the final period when Andrean maintained a three- to four-possession advantage and stayed ahead by making 15 of 17 free throw attempts.
So was it worth it to take losses at the hands of Lake Central, Crown Point, Penn, Bishop Noll and future regional foe Bowman?
“I wouldn’t change our schedule at all,” Hicko said. “Some teams are never tested. Our weaknesses were exposed, and now that’s paying off big-time.”
EAST CHICAGO | The adrenaline was flowing through Tye Wilburn’s veins on Saturday night.
Like a well-oiled machine, the Lake Central senior was prepared for the task at hand.
Bringing an immeasurable amount of energy to the court from the outset, Wilburn led the Indians with 20 points in a 53-37 win over Munster in the Class 4A E.C. Central Sectional championship game.
“Last year, we lost to them, so we knew we had to come in with the energy they brought last year so we could get one back,” Wilburn said. “We tried to come out and get as many fast-break layups as we can. Once we get fast-break layups, our threes start to fall, which they did tonight.”
Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic was impressed with the way Wilburn put the team on his back with Tyler Wideman sitting most of the first half due to foul trouble. Wilburn had 14 first-half points, including 11 in the first quarter.
“He was dynamite, wasn’t he?” Milausnic said. “He had some really good takes. Tye just did what he’s supposed to do, start picking up the scoring and find some good shots along the way.”
While Wilburn stole the show in the first half, Joe Bannister played an extremely good game off the bench. Bannister scored 10 points, which included two quick, five-point spurts that continued to push the momentum in the Indians’ favor.
Milausnic also praised Bannister for his defense on Munster’s Drew Hackett, who was held to three field goals and nine points.
“Everybody was on the same page on defense,” Bannister said. “I just tried to have a different mindset, lock into my man defense and let my defense dictate my offense.”
Lake Central held a 15-10 lead at the end of the first quarter before some cold shooting doomed the Mustangs for the rest of the half.
Munster (20-5) scored just three points in the second quarter, as the Indians (19-3) built a 26-13 lead at halftime, a deficit that proved too much for the Mustangs to overcome.
“It was kind of men against boys,” Munster coach Mike Hackett said. “We were just outmatched. We’ve played them twice this year and scored 38 one game and 37 (this) game. Unfortunately, we let Tye Wilburn have a nice night. They’ve got a very nice team. They’ve got a lot of weapons. I’d like to see them go a long way in the tournament.”
Lake Central will face LaPorte in a semifinal of the Class 4A Michigan City Regional at 10 a.m. Saturday.
VALPARAISO | It's supposed to be difficult to beat a good team three times in a season.
LaPorte blew that sports theory out of the water in Saturday's Class 4A Valparaiso Sectional championship, running away from rival Michigan City in the second half for a 67-51 victory.
"It wasn't as easy as the scoreboard indicates," Slicers coach Tom Wells said. "Sometimes the players make you look good."
Josh Fleming was first and foremost among them. The senior guard capped a monster week, pouring in 32 points, including 18 of 20 free throws to carry the Slicers (16-7) into the Michigan City Regional.
"It means a lot. I can't really say, I'm so happy. I don't know of a better feeling," Fleming said. "There's no better thing than beating your rival for a sectional championship. Being a leader on the team, I feel like I set the tone at the beginning, then I put the team on my back as best I could toward the end."
Fleming scored 17 of LaPorte's 29 points in the first half and did most of his damage after the break at the free-throw line to resist any City challenges.
"And to think, he's an unsigned senior," Wells said. "Somebody's going to gobble him up in a hurry. The bigger the stage, the better he is. Just an unbelievable performance."
With Gage Ott slowed by foul trouble, LaPorte got a lift from Miles Browder, who chipped in 17 points and helped defend Keenan Simmons.
"A different guy," Wells said. "We never know who it's going to be. It's a simple recipe. We've got our two anchors and when we get a third guy going, we're pretty good."
LaPorte focused its defensive efforts on stopping Simmons and the 6-foot-7 senior managed just 10 points to go with 10 rebounds and four blocks. Freshman Jaronde Boyd had 11 points to top M.C. (14-9), which went just 1-of-12 from the arc.
"We've had success taking other teams' best players out of the game for the most part," Wells said. "If they were going to beat us, they were going to beat us with a guy who hadn't done it yet."
The loss continued Michigan City's sectional drought. The school has not won a post-season title since the consolidation of Rogers and Elston in 1995. Freshman Jaronde Boyd led City with 11.
"It's just not Michigan City's time yet," Boyd said. "Hats off to LaPorte. They're a senior-led team. They hit shots when they need to. That's what the game is all about. We couldn't get stops. I thought we got stagnant. We've got a lot of young guys, so there's hope for years to come. The future's bright."
The title is LaPorte's first since 2006.
"We've been through some tough years," Wells said. "This group of seniors have been looming forward to this for a long time."
HEBRON | About the only thing that didn't go Larry Crisler's way Saturday night was an alley-oop dunk attempt.
Crisler, a Bishop Noll senior who is one of Northwest Indiana's premier athletes armed with a baseball scholarship to Indiana, failed to finish at the rim on a pass from teammate Jaylen Hord late in the Class 2A Hebron Sectional title game.
It didn't matter much on the scoreboard, as the Warriors rolled to a 65-52 victory over an out-manned but determined Whiting squad.
But it will hurt Crisler in the wallet.
"I've got to buy (Jaylen) lunch now," Crisler said. "I think I tried to slam it a little too hard."
The state-ranked No. 5 Warriors (21-3) will advance to next week's North Judson Regional against the sectional winner at Westview.
Whiting, under 23-year-old first-year coach Tim Hopps, had a six-game winning streak snapped and finishes at 13-9.
Crisler led the Warriors with 18 points and five assists, while senior Tyreon Gates added 16 points and four assists.
"It's just the first step," said Crisler, a freshman when the Warriors finished as state runners-up in 2011. "We haven't accomplished anything yet. Our goal is to make it to state and win it this time."
Noll shot 26 of 55 from the floor and had 18 assists to just 12 turnovers, numbers that were pleasing to coach Josh Belluomini.
"We talked about trying to pass the ball more," Belluomini said. "If you've watched us before and the three games in the playoffs, there's a huge difference in the way we pass the ball.
"The kids make great decisions, and I can't think of many forced shots today."
Whiting led 11-8 at 3:23 of the first quarter after senior Matt Dvorscak hit three free throws.
But the Warriors took control in the second quarter, building a 38-24 halftime lead. Gates scored 10 of his points in the period.
"He's been a different kid the last two games," Belluomini said. "His basketball IQ has gone up so much. He's taking smart shots and making good passes. When he shoots in rhythm, it goes in."
Dvorscak kept Whiting close, scoring 13 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter to help the Oilers cut the deficit to 60-47.
But the Oilers were doomed by turnovers, committing 25 against the Warriors' relentless pressure.
"Too little too late," Hopps said. "And when you give up as many offensive rebounds as we did, it's tough to do anything.
"All of our kids tried to keep us in it. No one ever gave up. It's a tough way to end the season, but it's a credit to them with how hard they worked and stayed together."
HAMMOND | Anthony Cole doesn't even want to start.
Bowman coach Marvin Rea has asked the senior swingman, but he'd rather come off the bench.
"On any given day, anybody can start," Cole said. "I bring the energy when we come out flat. I change the momentum of the game."
Cole had 18 of the Eagles' 40 points in the third quarter, as Bowman pulled away for 117-78 Class 3A Hammond Sectional championship win over Lew Wallace.
The Eagles finished off the frame with a 23-2 run, thanks to a stifling full-court press. The Hornets had trouble even crossing midcourt.
"I tell our guys you can't come in and just show up and think you're going to win," Rea said. "Cole sparked us in that third quarter, and we just picked up our defensive intensity."
The state record for points in a quarter is 47, according to Leigh Evans of Hickory Husker.
Wallace hung with Bowman (19-4) for the first half, pushing the ball at every opportunity and scoring most of its points on layups. Aarion Green scored 21 points in the first 16 minutes, as Walllace led 44-42 at halftime.
"I tell you what, Wallace fought. They played a great game," Rea said. "I told them at halftime, 'We got punched in the mouth. We got bullied and you're either going to fight, or you're not going to fight.'"
The sectional championship is Bowman's fifth in six seasons of IHSAA eligibility, but its first in Class 3A. The loss ends a streak of four straight sectional titles for the Hornets (10-8).
"Bowman is a very good team. You can't turn the ball over against Bowman," L.W. interim coach Brandon Scott said. "But I am proud of the guys. They did fight."
Hornets coach Melvin Yancy missed the game with a health issue.
"(Being in Class 3A), I don't see any difference at all. You'll get caught by some 1A schools that'll spike you and a 4A school can get caught by a 2A school," Rea said. "At the end of the day, you have to play basketball no matter who steps on the court."
Green finished with 32 points to lead all scorers. Bowman had four different players score at least 17, led by Austin Daniels's 19.
CHICAGO HEIGHTS | When the inevitable second half Joliet Central run came, Bloom Township's Jared Johnson answered the call.
Johnson scored nine of his game high 21 points in the third quarter to help hold off Joliet Central on the way to a 57-49 Blazing Trojans win at the 4A Bloom Township Regional championship. Bloom led by 16 at the half, but Joliet Central was not going to go quietly. The Steelmen outscored the Blazing Trojans 33-25 in the second half, but Bloom was able to hold on for the win.
"Basketball's a game of runs," Johnson said. "Coach is always telling me, when it comes down to it, he can come to me. He can rely on me to get the shot or the bucket or whatever it is."
The Blazing Trojans (19-8) trailed by two after one quarter, but a 19-2 run to start the second quarter quickly gave Bloom Township the double digit lead. After overcoming an 11-point halftime deficit against Crete-Monee on Tuesday night to win, Joliet Central came out strong in the third quarter, but Johnson was able to get a bucket when the Blazing Trojans needed one.
"They were going to make a run and it was going to be a major run," Bloom Township coach Ron Ashlaw said. "And they'll sustain it. We withstood that. We did enough to hang on."
Zerrell Jackson, Dalvin Echols, and James Coleman each finished with nine points apiece for Bloom Township. The Blazing Trojans were 13 of 30 from the free throw line and could have made things easier on themselves with better shooting from the line.
"It is something we have struggled with as of late," Ashlaw said. "We have not been as good at the free throw line as we were earlier in the season. We haven't changed anything we've done. Sometimes pressure moments do things to athletes, and especially young athletes."
With 1:29 remaining, Joliet Central was able to cut the Bloom Township lead to three, but the Steelmen were forced to foul and Bloom was able to hold on despite shooting below 50 percent from the free throw line in the final minutes. The Blazing Trojans will move on to Tuesday's 4A Thornton Township Sectional where they will face Marian Catholic.
"A big time game," Johnson said of the matchup with Marian. "We've got to play smart and play as a team. The way we played in the first half, we need to bring that same intensity for Marian on Tuesday."
BLUE ISLAND | For the first three minutes Friday night it looked like Thornwood was going to be in a dogfight with Oak Forest in the championship game of the Eisenhower Regional.
However, trailing 4-0, Thornwood went on a 23-2 run to blow the game wide open and never looked back on their way to an 81-58 win and a regional championship.
Donzel Vinson and Rashaad Alexander got things started for the Thunderbirds (24-4) combining for seven of the teams 11 three pointers in the first half as Thornwood opened a 17-point halftime lead.
“I was feeling it tonight,” Alexander said. “Donzel hit two early and when I see him hitting them, I feel like I have to hit some too.”
For the night, Thornwood connected on 11-of-18 three-point attempts on their way to an easy victory.
Oak Forest looked like they would make a game of it in the early going, using a drive and kick out game to open the floor but the Thunderbirds turned the defense up a notch and refused to give the Bengals (22-6) an open look for much of the first half.
“That was the game plan going in,” Thornwood coach Paul Slavich said. “Once my guys step out on the court they have an extra gear, I told my guards to get out and stick so they couldn’t get open looks.”
The Bengals eventually settled down in the second quarter and were able to keep pace, but by then the damage was already done as the Thunderbirds took a 42-25 lead into the half.
The Bengals tried to cut into the lead in the second half but every time they would make any kind of run the Thunderbirds responded pushing the lead to as much as 33 in the third quarter.
“We take it a little personal when people score on us,” Vinson said. “It motivates us to step up the defense. This win means a lot, but we know we still need three more to get downstate and achieve our goal.”
Thornwood center Kenny Bates may have delivered the performance of the night on defense, blocking three shots to go along with 14 rebounds and holding his Oak Forest counterpart Kyle Flanagan to 11 points, none of which came in the paint.
“Kenny has continued to develop his game all season,” Slavich said. “He has a 7-foot wing span and changes so many shots out there.”
What makes this regional championship so much more special for Thornwood is doing it without leading scorer and Bradley recruit Donte Thomas who was lost for the season due to injury.
“I’m so proud of this group,” Slavich said. “When Donte went down I challenged everyone to step and fill the void. We’ve had to completely change the offense and they’ve elevated their game since then.”
Next up for Thornwood is the Thornton Sectional and a rematch with Homewood-Flossmoor, who beat the Thunderbirds earlier this season 78-63.
HAMMOND | Bowman Academy has speed, athleticism and quickness that can't be duplicated.
Just ask Gary Hayes.
The Griffith coach thought his team was prepared to play the Eagles in Friday's sectional semifinals.
Then the Panthers turned the ball over 26 times in the first half and went 6 of 14 from the free-throw line.
Bowman, who used 12 players with 11 of them scoring, will face Lew Wallace for the Class 3A Clark Sectional title at 7 p.m. today at the Hammond Civic Center. The Eagles beat Griffith 80-44 and Wallace topped Gavit 66-58.
"We wanted to disrupt their offense, apply pressure and that's what we worked on," Bowman coach Marvin Rea said. "I think our guys have bought into it in practice and they love it; they love creating offense off the defense."
"You just can't simulate that kind of quickness in practice," Hayes added. "We played East Chicago and beat them this season. They were quick, but not as tenacious, and if you can't simulate it in practice, you can be only so prepared for it."
While some of the early turnovers can be attributed to 17 first-half Eagles steals, others were miscommunication throws that went in-and-out of a receivers hands or passed him all together.
"The last thing we needed was what we had, to come out and play bad at the start," Hayes said.
The Eagles picked up 17 points from Anthony Cole off the bench and another 16 from Davon Dillard, who had a team-best eight rebounds.
"Our guys start based upon the way they practice," Rea said. "We have some guys like Cole that don't start and bring a better spark off of the bench."
Tremell Murphy led all scorers with 18 points and scored the first 10 of the Panthers' points.
Lew Wallace, the four-time defending champ of the sectional, rallied from a push by Gavit in the second quarter.
After falling behind 19-16 after the first quarter, Wallace used its speed to counter Gavit's outside shooting.
Keontae Bridges and Aairon Green each notched double-doubles as Bridges scored 20 points with 12 rebounds and Green had 16 points with 10 rebounds.
"We try to play at a fast pace as much as we can," Hornets coach Brandon Scott said. "That's our strength. We don't have a lot of size, and in our conference, there are a lot of big players, guys who are (6-foot-6), 6-7, and our biggest guy is 6-4 and he's just a sophomore. For us to play well in our conference, we have to be fast."
Eric Sims had 21 for Gavit, which pulled as close as three points in the third quarter. The Gladiators (6-16) then went 4 minutes, 42 seconds in the fourth quarter without a field goal.
EAST CHICAGO | Here we go again.
Defending champion Munster beat Morton for the 17th consecutive time to open Tuesday's 4A East Chicago Sectional.
In Friday's semifinals, the Mustangs risked a 15-game winning streak against Lowell that dated back to 2002.
Remember that tired, old sports cliche? In the postseason, everyone is 0-0.
That kept the fire burning for Lowell until Munster pulled away late in the fourth quarter to claim a 57-48 win behind Drew Hackett's 21 points.
Munster and Lake Central will decide tonight's championship in a 7:30 tipoff.
In Game 2 Friday, Tyler Wideman was unstoppable with his 25 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots in keying the 70-57 win over East Chicago before an estimated crowd of 5,000.
The Indians (18-3) avenged an earlier loss to Central (12-10) by converting 28 of 37 free throws in the rematch, including 17 of 23 in the pivotal fourth quarter.
Lake Central beat Munster 47-38 back in December.
"This was our 24th game and we still haven't played our best," coach Mike Hackett said after disposing of Lowell. "We played better than Tuesday night (against Morton) but we're still making silly, costly mistakes."
The Red Devils (16-5), with three players fouling out, got no closer than eight points the final period as Munster used 9-of-11 foul shooting to keep Lowell at bay.
"Our focus and execution was better," Mike Hackett said. "That's a good Lowell team. We knew it wouldn't be a blowout (79-59) like the last time."
Added Drew Hackett: "Defensive stops. That was our goal. They don't rush on offense so when we got the ball, we couldn't rush either.
"That way, if we have the lead, they can't stall."
Nikola Mandic had 10 points for Munster (20-4) and Pat McCarthy grabbed nine rebounds.
Zack Van Hook led Lowell with 15 points, but missed 11 of 17 shots. William Barker added 11.
Lake Central survived a wild fourth quarter that featured 36 free throws. Robert "Scooter" Ryan added 11 points, sinking 8 of 9 foul shots in the period.
"My job is to provide energy and take control of the offense," said the reliable reserve. "I work on my ballhandling every day and Coach makes us shoot 100 free throws every day, which is why I was able to knock down those clutch shots."
Hyron Edwards' 19 points, 15 coming in the final quarter, led the Cardinals. Damien Jefferson had 13 to go with his 11 rebounds.
"It was just a tough game," L.C. coach Dave Milausnic understated. "They played tough. We played tough. The kids just went after each other.
"Scooter was huge. You have to have a handful of ballhandlers, especially with East Chicago's versatility."
VALPARAISO | It's been 14 years since LaPorte and Michigan City have met for a sectional title.
The LaPorte County rivals will tip it off with a trophy at stake tonight in the Class 4A Valparaiso Sectional final after posting double-digit victories Friday.
The Slicers (15-7) broke away from Chesterton (12-10) in the second half to win 71-58, while the Wolves (14-8) knocked out Portage (13-11), 64-49, setting up the teams' third meeting. The Slicers won the first two.
"It's a game that's special to a lot of people," LaPorte coach Tom Wells said. "It's an old rivalry that brings back a lot of memories to a lot of fans. We've talked all week about how special of a night it is and could end up being real special."
LaPorte was up 36-32 in the third quarter when three straight two-and-ones, one by Josh Fleming and two by Gage Ott, quickly pushed the lead to 13.
"We talked about trying to get them to react to us," Wells said. "That affects tempo, a lot of the mojo of the game."
Wells rotated Tyler Littlejohn and Miles Browder on Chesterton's Cole Teal in some junk defenses for three quarters and Teal managed just four points in that span.
"LaPorte had a good plan," Trojans coach Tom Peller said. "They kept us off sync with the different defenses."
Teal caught fire for 14 points in the fourth quarter, when Chesterton cut the deficit to eight, but the Slicers netted 20 free throws in the final eight minutes to hold steady.
"I was proud of how we battled," Peller said. "They're hard to beat when they shoot like that."
LaPorte hit 9-of-18 3s with Jacob Jones burying four and Fleming 3. Fleming posted 23 points and Ott 19 with nine boards.
"The two studs continue to do what they do," Wells said. "When we get that third guy going, we're just a tough out. Jacob got us to a great start. Blake Arnett. Miles and Tyler off the bench, they did a whale of a job on Teal. He had to work. That's one of the keys for us, getting contributions across the board."
In the opener, Michigan City overcame Luke Kizer's hot start for Portage to build a 10-point halftime lead. Jordan Collazo's 11-point third quarter drew the Indians (13-11) within five, but City (14-8) closed the period with six in a row and poured it on in the fourth, swelling the margin to as many as 21.
"Portage stuck around as long as they could," MC coach John Boyd said. "They just started to wear down. They're using eight guys and we kept putting in nine, 10, 11."
Kizer had 12 of his 15 points in the first half. Collazo's 13 all came after the half. Portage shot just 35 percent.
"They're talented and deep. They just keep the pressure on you," Portage coach Rick Snodgrass said. "We had way too many unforced errors the first half, but that's the way they make you play. We had some good looks inside and outside. We just didn't make shots. That's the name of the game."
City had six players score at least six points and was topped by freshman Troy Jones, who booked all 14 of his points in the second half. Keenan Simmons notched a dozen.
"I don't know a lot of people who have started two freshmen and a sophomore all year," Boyd said. "They're growing up. You'd think they'd be nervous in this environment, but they seem comfortable with it. We've got some very quick guards and they've come on in a big way."
WHEATFIELD | One by one the six seniors for Calumet sauntered out of the locker room.
An offseason of dedication, commitment and confidence that this team could win its first sectional since 2000 had disappeared, and anguish was all that remained.
College ball awaits some, while another offseason of workouts paired with regret are in store for the remaining underclassmen.
In three seasons at the helm, Calumet coach Matt Justin went from two wins to six to 12, but he found that postseason momentum, 3-pointers and wins can be fleeting as New Prairie closed the second quarter on a 17-5 run and ousted the Warriors 66-57 Friday night in the first semifinal of the Class 3A Kankakee Valley Sectional.
“That killed us,” Justin said of the run. “At one point it was a one-point game. All of a sudden we looked up and we were down nine. I was proud the kids fought to the end, but that killed us.”
The Cougars (13-8) will take on Andrean tonight after the 59ers overcame a foul-soaked game and predictably handed Knox its 20th and final loss of the season by a count of 69-46.
The 59ers (12-9) have won four consecutive sectional championships, while New Prairie is appearing in its first title game since 2008 and seeking its first title since 2003.
New Prairie’s Jasen Webb, who scored 23 points in a win over Wheeler on Tuesday, matched that number on Friday. Of those 23, 14 came in the second quarter, including a pair of three-point plays in the final 31 seconds.
While New Prairie shot 22-for-33 from the free throw line and Calumet was 12-of-22, the Cougars nailed six 3-pointers while the Warriors managed just one.
“Our game plan was to get out on the perimeter and close out on the 3-pointer,” Justin said. “They got loose multiple times. We lost them, and they made us play.”
The lone 3 for Calumet (12-9) came off the hands of talented junior Anthony Harris, who had a game-high 25 points before fouling out in the final minute.
Senior Dantrell Brooks had 11 points and 12 rebounds. Classmate Javota Whitehead added eight points and three assists.
Whitehead’s alley-oop dunk with about four minutes to go cut New Prairie’s lead to 10, but Calumet stayed behind by double figures for most of the second half.
“The seniors committed all offseason, and it makes me sick that that’s the way it ended,” Justin said. “It’s frustrating.”
While New Prairie had to keep its rotation players in the game all night, Andrean was able to rest its starters plenty in the decimation of Knox (2-20).
“Our goal was to speed up the game and have more possessions,” Andrean coach Scott Hicko said. “We had to adjust to them calling a tight game, and we’ve got to get smarter about that.
“They fouled us hard, but they’re a hard-nosed team. I don’t think they’re dirty.”
There were 19 fouls committed in the first quarter and 44 for the game. The 59ers led 20-9 after a quarter, 41-21 at halftime and never trailed in cruising to the win.
Knox had a flagrant foul early and was part of a double-technical foul in the third quarter, but Andrean kept its cool.
“Coach always tells us we’ve got to be respectful and know how to control ourselves,” said senior Ramon Guerrero, who had 10 points for Andrean.
“Just because they were 2-19 didn’t mean they wouldn’t fight hard. We ran our plays, played hard defense and came out to win.”
MORGAN TWP. | Marquette Catholic coach Donovan Garletts knew playing a scrappy team like Washington Township was going to be a huge benefit for the Blazers in their quest for a sectional championship.
That proved to be true Friday night, as the favored Blazers certainly had to work for their 75-62 win over the Senators in a semifinal of the Class A Morgan Township Sectional.
"Washington Township is a good team,” Garletts said. “There’s not a team that we’ve played all year that has played harder than Washington Township for 32 minutes. They did not give up. They kept coming.”
Heading into the fourth quarter up just 50-45, the Blazers (15-6) erupted for a 25-point final period to finally pull away.
At the forefront of that offensive attack was Ryan Fazekas (22 points) and Richard Mitchell (16), and the Senators had trouble containing the duo.
“We were controlling the basketball,” Garletts said of the fourth quarter. “We have the ability to control the basketball anytime we want to. We hit some good shots and we started moving more.”
Alex Lowther led the Senators (16-6) with 16 points.
The Blazers advance to Saturday's 7 p.m. championship and will face 21st Century after the Cougars defeated Kouts 82-71 in the nightcap.
The Cougars (15-5) found themselves down 20-16 going into the second quarter. Then, 21st Century came alive for a 28-point second quarter, running Kouts (16-5) out of the gym in the process.
“We were a little sluggish in that first quarter,” 21st Century coach Rodney Williams said. “I don’t know if it was nerves. Dantrell Hurt picked up two quick fouls, and that took some steam out of us.”
Any steam that 21st Century lost from that was quickly picked back up by Eugene German. The sophomore point guard led the Cougars with 22 points while running an extremely fast-paced offensive attack that saw four players reach double-figures in scoring.
“He’s a seasoned sophomore,” Williams said of German. “He played a good game, and I’m proud of him. He’s come along really well.”
Jake Bekelya led Kouts with 30 points, his third straight game with 30 or more, while Cody Nelson added 25.
“We most definitely are preparing for (Marquette), and I’m sure they’re preparing for us, too,” German said. “We’re looking for the championship.”
CULVER | By the time South Central started digging itself out on Friday night, the hole was already too deep.
The Satellites were never able to recover from an early deficit in the Class A Culver Community Sectional semifinal, falling 75-51 to Argos. Mark Richards tied a game-high with 18 points for South Central, while Jacob Clindaniel and Max Clemons added 11 and 10 points, respectively, off the bench.
“Our kids, all year, they haven’t given up,” Satellites coach Eric Branz said. “That’s the one thing I can say about this team and no one can deny it. They always work hard, no matter what the situation is. We’ve been down in many games and we always fight back.”
South Central staged a comeback effort in the second and third quarters, outscoring the Dragons 38-33. The Satellites started the second half with a 6-2 run, cutting the lead to 10, but Argos had built too large a lead and found answers too often.
“We’ll string a couple together, and then we’ll back off, kind of take the foot off the pedal a little bit,” Branz said. “We can’t string enough stops defensively together to then get back on offense. We started shooting the ball a lot better, but (it comes down to) getting stop after stop.”
Argos shut out the Satellites (5-16) in the first quarter, building a 16-0 lead. Branz was happy with his bench play during South Central second- and third-quarter comeback effort.
“That’s what we look for,” Branz said. “I have a starting unit that I’m not afraid to change things. But I’m always looking for that spark off the bench.”
Argos (13-7) was led by 18 points from both Dominic Cataldo and Casey Johnson. Taylor Ogle added 16 for the Dragons. Argos shot 57 percent from the floor in the first half and 51 percent (28-of-55) for the game.
South Central loses just two seniors and will return 10 underclassmen next season. Branz plans to give his players some time off, then hit the weight room and gym to start preparing for next season.
“I think a lot of our struggles shooting the basketball this year was due to their immaturity as far as experience and just a lack of getting as many shots up as older (players) have over the course of their life,” Branz said. “These guys love to play basketball and I love being at South Central because of that.”
RENSSELAER | Rensselaer knew if it was going to advance to its first sectional championship in six seasons it was going to have to win the rebounding battle against Winamac to get there.
After getting out-rebounded 15-9 in the first half, Rensselaer hung tough in the second half and finished in a 31-29 deficit.
But Rensselaer’s shooting touch left it, and Winamac eliminated the hosts 47-40Friday night in Joe Burvan Gymnasium.
Winamac advances to today’s championship to face North Judson, which knocked out North Newton 65-56 in the opener.
“I seriously thought we played at a level good enough to win this game,” Rensselaer coach Kevin Sims said. “When you’re 1-for-16 from 3-point range and 13-for-26 from the free-throw line, you’re in trouble. That was our main problem.”
The Bombers (13-9) fell behind 12-6 after one quarter and still trailed 22-14 at the half.
“Every missed shot they had in the first half, they got a follow-up rebound,” Sims said of the Warriors.
Sparked by the play of Austin Fleming and reserve Isaiah Valencia, the Bombers kept it close in the second half. Fleming scored nine of his 10 points after the break, while Valancia came off the bench to score seven points and grab five rebounds.
Rensselaer got within 36-31 early in the fourth but just couldn’t knock down shots either from the field or at the line.
“When we win, we shoot 70 percent from the free-throw line,” Sims said. “(Friday) we struggled.”
Joey Claussen led the Bombers with 12 points.
Parker Fox and Colin McGee each tallied nine points for the Warriors (13-8)
In the opener, North Newton (2-19) never could get over the hump against North Judson. North Newton trailed 16-14 at the first stop and battled against a sharp-shooting opponent.
Jacob Shabi hit two 3-pointers in the final 1:05 of the second quarter to give Judson a 32-26 lead at the half. Shabi scored 20 of his game-high 32 points in the first half.
Bryce Carden, who led the Spartans with 14 points hit two buckets to get within 39-34 early in the third quarter.
The Bluejays (13-8) maintained a 51-45 lead after three quarters.
The Spartans pulled to 51-47 early in the fourth on a Brandon Propes bucket, but they would get no closer the rest of the way.
“Like I told the kids in the (locker room), there were games when we lost because we different give the effort,” North Newton coach Tim Feddeler said. “That wasn’t the case (Friday). The kids gave it everything they’ve got. They left it all out on the floor.”
The Spartans believed they could pull the upset and get to the championship.
“We gave a good effort (Friday),” Carden said.
EAST CHICAGO | Frank Kollintzas used to stand in the southeast corner of the Baratto Center's gym. E.C. Central was a state power. The bleachers were always full.
That spot was empty Friday night.
It was an empty vacuum as the host Cardinals played Lake Central in the Class 4A East Chicago Sectional semifinal.
It is a new age as Kollintzas is now allegedly in Greece after he fled federal charges. I have no comment on that. It's above my pay grade.
But I do wonder what the old town boss would think of E.C. Central boys basketball these days. State power has shrunk to region flower.
Lake Central's 70-57 win over the Cardinals illustrated the change.
E.C. Washington won the 1960 and '71 state championships. E.C. Roosevelt won it all in 1970. Consolodated Central cut down the nets in Indy in 2007.
This program has not won a sectional since 2008. In Gas City that's OK. Is it in E.C.?
“We'll be all right,” Cardinals coach Abe Brown said. “This is one of the one or two toughest sectionals in the state.”
True dat. But the Cards are filled with one or two toughest talent as well. In big games the headliners seem to shrink.
Hyron Edwards is an unbelievable talent, which is why Indiana and Purdue are so interested in the junior. Most all of his shots came off one-on-one AAU moves with two guys guarding him. The blue-chip star scored 19 on 4-of-19 shooting. That won't win.
Same for sophomore Damien Jefferson, who scored 13 points and had 13 rebounds. But there's a reason L.C. won.
Jefferson had a great block in the first half, then got a T for jawing. In the third period Edwards knocked L.C.'s Robert Ryan on the ground, then stood over him talking smack.
You can't win this way.
E.C.'s offense was one one-on-one move after another. Nothing else. You can't win postseason games this way.
“We just didn't hit our shots,” Brown said. “It was a tough night.”
Lake Central's offense, on the other hand, was smart, efficient and team-oriented.
Coach Brown is a good man, a great family man, which means more than wins and losses. He is now 97-56. Again, OK in Gas City.
Is this his fault, the coaching staff or the city's?
How in the ever-loving world was Cardinals football coach Stacy Adams allowed to leave town to take the athletic director's job at South Bend Washington, like he did this week?
Adams actually won in the postseason. But he wasn't from E.C. And he wasn't politically connected.
Politics can put in sidewalks but it can also ruin a basketball program. Something needs to change. Somewhere. Or the mid-level postseason play will continue.
Yes, Brown was right. Lake Central is loaded with senior talent. But Game 1 winner Munster will be next year. At some point the big win has to happen.
“We'll be all right,” Brown said. “We'll come back next year and be ready.”
Maybe, but I don't know.
Kollintzas is in Greece. And so is E.C. basketball.
HEBRON | At the beginning of this school year, Whiting junior Joseph Hawkins lived in Mississippi.
His family moved to Whiting in September. First-year Whiting coach Tim Hopps, a five-year student manager at Valparaiso University under Homer and Bryce Drew, met with Hawkins' father to discuss the basketball team.
All hasn't been exactly smooth for Hawkins, but he had quite a welcome to Hoosier Hysteria on Friday night in the Class 2A Hebron Sectional semifinals.
Hawkins came off the bench for the Oilers to score a game- and career-high 18 points to lead Whiting to a 47-43 come-from-behind victory over the host Hawks.
"He's learning what the sectional is all about," Hopps said. "He stepped up and that was huge for us."
Whiting (13-8) will take a six-game winning streak into tonight's title game against state-ranked No. 5 Bishop Noll (20-3), which took control in the second quarter of a 76-43 pummeling of River Forest.
In a game that had 16 lead changes, Whiting rallied from a 37-34 deficit in the last three minutes to eliminate the Hawks (13-10).
Hebron trailed 29-24 late in the third quarter, but the Hawks put together a 9-2 run to take a 33-31 lead on a 3-pointer by Bryce Hanaway with 5:48 remaining. But Hawkins hit a 3-pointer with 5:02 left to give the Oilers a 34-33 advantage.
The Oilers' press then took its toll on Hebron. Whiting came up with five consecutive steals in the final three minutes, and a 3-pointer by Matt Dvorscak with 1:44 remaining gave the Oilers a 39-37 advantage they would never relinquish.
"I knew that shot was going to be good," Hopps said. "He's a senior so I knew he would step up and make it. That was huge for us."
The Oilers converted 6 of 8 free throws in the final 1:04 to secure the win. Dvorsak added 12 points for Whiting, while Hebron (13-10) was led by Hanaway with 11.
"We got discombobulated a little against their press," Hebron coach John Steinhilber said. "We just flattened out and made mistakes. You can't do that. But I'll take my guys against anybody. We had a pretty good year."
Whiting hasn't lost a game since falling 60-46 to Noll on Jan. 31.
"The biggest thing is containing their 3-point shooters and keeping them off the offensive boards," Hopps said. "We feel like we have improved not only throughout the season but whenever we play a team a second time."
In the nightcap, River Forest led 14-12 with 2:59 remaining in the first quarter when Noll coach Josh Belluomini called a timeout. The Warriors responded with a game-clinching 22-1 run.
"They're a very talented group; everyone knows that," Belluomini said. "But I just didn't think we were focused at all. They're just so talented, but they can still beat a team by 30."
Tyreon Gates led Noll with 22 points and six rebounds, while Larry Crisler had 16 to go along with six boards.
The highlight of the night was a steal by Gates late in the third quarter. Racing to the other end, he threw an alley-oop pass off the backboard that Crisler jammed home. He was called for a technical for hanging on the rim, but it didn't matter at that point.
"Whiting is a good team and we definitely want to come out focused," Belluomini said. "We can play up to 11 guys and the biggest thing is our depth, because someone can step up and win a game. That's where it can come in handy. The guys know better and they'll be ready (Saturday)."
For River Forest (9-12), Brandon Laas scored 11 points.
HAMMOND | The fans looked on with a sense of shock on Wednesday night. The Civic Center crowd saw Bowman Academy play its first sectional game in Class 3A and the Eagles' top player, Davon Dillard, never left the bench.
Eagles coach Marvin Rea spoke shortly about it after his team beat Lighthouse 111-62 to advance to tonight's Hammond Sectional semifinal against Griffith.
"Davon is not injured and he does not have grade problems," Rea said. "He sat because I chose to sit him. And he may sit again (tonight). It will be my decision and no one else's."
Rea would not comment further.
There's been a long truth in Indiana high school boys basketball tournament play. When two good teams meet in March, the stars often cancel each other out. Consequently, the teams who survive to play another day have a player or two who step up and do something few expect.
The role player gets the headlines when they matter most.
For Bowman it was 5-foot-9 sophomore guard Martin Schiele. The Bishop Noll transfer scored 16 points, right at Dillard's season average.
"You're only as good as the last player you put in," Rea said.
Schiele said the entire team knew that Dillard had been benched before they arrived at the Civic Center. In typical Bowman fashion, the "next man up" philosophy burned hot.
Schiele hit shots, drove to the basket and played suffocating defense.
"I knew I had to step up and fill in his spot," Schiele said of Dillard. "I had to help Justin (King) and Hag (Arthur Haggard) out. I had to come out with a fire. I had to play like this was my last game.
"I had to know my role on this team."
Region basketball fans saw a lot of this take place this week as area sectionals spun forward. There was a common bond among the winners. More than just the best players put up big numbers to help their team stay on the floor.
On Tuesday night at the Class 4A Valparaiso Sectional, Michigan City standout Keenan Simmons was on the bench in foul trouble for much of the game. The Wolves' bench scored 56 points in City's 83-72 win over Crown Point.
Lucas Daurer, Brad Pawloski and Michael Miller combined to score 43 points off the bench, in a game where not one starter reached double-digit scoring.
"Bench is a prevailing term in the sport because you can only put five guys out there," Boyd told The Times on Tuesday. "We've got a guy (Simmons) who's kept us in a lot of games. It just takes some time for young guys to get the confidence to go out and perform. That's why you play the regular season."
At the Class 2A Hebron Sectional, Bishop Noll got the best of both worlds. The Warriors standouts — Larry Crisler (20 points) and Tylreon Gates (16 points) — played well against Lake Station in a 67-51 opening-round win.
But Marquis Tarver scored 10 and Jaylen Hord added 11 to lead Noll to the win. And other lesser known players contributed to a great team defensive effort which stifled the Eagles offense on every front.
This theme sets up tonight's semifinals all across Indiana.
"It isn't about one guy," Rea said. "It takes a team to win."
VALPARAISO | It's not easy losing 19.4 points per game.
OK, that's not the most insightful thing I've ever said, but you get the idea.
Chris Palombizio's season-ending foot injury not only cost Chesterton over one-third of its offense, the trickle-down effect on rebounding, ball handling and interior defense made the impact significantly greater.
Less than two weeks before the postseason, the Trojans were left with nearly zero margin for error to be successful. The mission to win a sectional became much more difficult, yet not impossible.
"We lost a lot of scoring with Chris, but we knew we were only down one person," Andrew Ralph said after Wednesday's 45-37 grinder over Valparaiso. "Collectively, we had to step it up. We had to move the ball better, set better screens, play defense with the same principles, get stops and limit second opportunities."
It might not sound flashy, but it doesn't have to be aesthetically pleasing to be effective. Longer possessions, fewer shots and in-your-shirt defense may not have mass appeal, but winning does. If that's what it takes at this point, then that's what Chesterton's going to do, to heck with style marks.
"It all comes down to defense this time of year," Cole Teal said. "Defense wins championships. Andrew deserves so much credit. He sets the tone defensively. Obviously, Chris drew a lot of attention (on offense) and I'm getting more now, but I've said it before, if we all work the ball to get open looks, we have capable shooters."
Ralph will never be confused with a scoring machine -- he took one shot Wednesday -- but his value in two wins against Valpo has come on the other end, where he absolutely stymied Justin Osburn.
"I'm always excited," Ralph said of his defensive assignments. "That's my job. I know we have guys who can score."
Chief among them is Teal, who has the confident, focused look of a senior leader who doesn't want his prep career to end this week, and is willing to do whatever he has to do to prevent that. He quarterbacked the football team and has no qualms with doing the same in basketball.
"These guys are my best friends," Teal said after registering just over half of his team's points with 23. "We play for each other."
The senior group, which also includes Corey Rusboldt, Jake Wasielewski and Brandon Roeske, have been together since fourth grade, when they were coached by Monte Moffett, now an assistant superintendent in the Duneland School Corporation. In seventh grade, they were coached by volleyball and boys track coach TR Harlan.
"It's something we try not to think about," Ralph said of the inevitable end. "It may always be in the back of your mind and you give that little extra effort. Our goal has always been to bring the sectional back to Chesterton. It's something we've put our mind to and have been striving for all season."
The Trojans are only one-third of the way there, but that's already further than many expected.
"We try to use everything for motivation," Teal said. "We're just playing hard. The games don't get any bigger. You win or go home."
HAMMOND | It's winners week in Indiana. We've been doing this for 104 years. Ain't it fun?
From Angola to Zionsville champions will be crowned at 64 boys basketball sites on Saturday night. The time-tested climbing up the ladder with scissors in hand will be the glorious exclamation mark.
Joe Delgado will be at the Hammond Civic Center on Saturday night. The coach at Clark, though, will not be coaching. He'll be helping his school's support staff as they host the Class 3A sectional.
With Clark's 46-34 loss to Gavit on Tuesday night, the Pioneers finished their season 0-22. They were one of three schools out of 403 entered in this tourney who finished the 2013-14 season without a win.
The other two were Class A schools Howe (0-20) and Indianapolis Arlington (0-21).
Delgado is not a poor coach at an awful school. In 2006, '07 and '08 he led Clark to sectional championships. Close losses to Andrean and Plymouth in the regional was all that kept this program from taking a deeper run.
But Delgado made a tough decision in November. It cost him wins. All of them. But it was, without question, the right thing to do.
"We had some kids who started for us last year who were having issues in the classroom, they were displaying bad attitudes," Delgado said. "They were not the kind of kids we wanted representing our school or our program.
"So we cut them."
He knew his young team would take a beating this winter. But there were things more important than wins or championships.
"We had to teach the kids a lesson," Delgado said, as Bowman Academy and Lighthouse were playing on the floor on Wednesday night.
How many coaches or schools have turned a blind eye when one of their best athletes were allowed to continue to behave poorly? And looking back, how hollow were those wins when the youngster never learned the most important lesson.
High school sports are there for fun and competition, but the most important thing is to prepare young people for life. Period.
"I knew this was going to be a rebuilding year," said senior Kalil Frith, a 6-foot-4 forward who averaged 11 points and eight rebounds for the Pioneers. "I was the only one returning with varsity experience. But I agree with what coach did. I want to be a coach some day. You have to do the right things.
"I took a lot of pride in leading our young team. Coach Delgado always says, 'Basketball is a game. There's more to life than that.'"
Delgado took great pride in game officials, bus drivers or custodians complementing the behavior of his winless team. They were taught to say "Thank you" or "Yes, sir" or "Yes, ma'am,"
"That means a lot more to me than 10 wins," Delgado said.
On Saturday night, after the championship game, another ladder should be brought out on the Civic Center floor for Delgado and his Pioneers. And the steps on this ladder should be higher than 10 feet.
There are many definitions for a champion. Delgado's is the best, most important. They are the champions.
MORGAN TWP. | Guard play proved the difference on Wednesday as Eugene German and Jacob Bekelya each scored exactly 30 points in wins for 21st Century and Kouts, respectively, on the second night of the Morgan Township Class A sectional.
Led by German’s 30 points, 21st Century rolled to an 80-51 blowout of host Morgan Township. Dantrell Hurt added 17 for the Cougars.
“I thought they played well. We’ve been kind of itching to get to the tournament,” 21st Century coach Rodney Williams said. “I think we prepare all season to play in the sectionals, so we played pretty well.”
To start the game, 21st Century (14-5) jumped out to a 15-0 lead, hitting each of its first five field goal attempts, including two 3-pointers by German.
“I didn’t know who these guys were,” Rodney said with a laugh. “They played well. That’s what we’ve been working toward all season, putting four quarters together, and I think we did that (Wednesday) night.”
The Cherokees (10-10) finally scored their first points on a Jacob Koselke offensive rebound and putback. Morgan then rattled off eight straight points, part of a 12-5 run to close the quarter and cut the deficit to 20-12.
Morgan stayed close until halftime, but 21st Century opened the third quarter with seven straight points, capped by a Hurt 3-pointer. The Cougars outscored Morgan 23-10 in the period and led by 25 heading into the fourth quarter.
With the game out of hand, both teams emptied their benches to let the reserves get some sectional playing time. Rodney hopes the chance to do that will help his team – which has won five straight games – later in the tournament.
“Anytime you get guys some experience, some playing time, that’s going to help,” Rodney said.
Jacob Koselke led Morgan with 24 points. Chase Braden added a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds.
In the nightcap, a big second half allowed Kouts to pull away in a 69-57 win over Westville. In addition to Bekelya’s 30-point effort, Cody Nelson scored 22 for the Mustangs.
Kouts (16-4) led 48-35 after the third quarter but Westville rallied late on a trio of 3-pointers by Josh Brownlee. The Mustangs were able to seal the win at the free throw line, however, despite shooting just 8-for-17 from the stripe in the period.
“We just didn’t hit free throws,” Kouts coach Matt Crawford said. “They were able to hit some contested shots – and credit to them for making them – and we just couldn’t hit free throws in the fourth quarter.”
Westville (13-9) was led by Shawn Gerron’s 17 points. Brownlee and Alex Henn added 13 apiece.
VALPARAISO | When Chris Palombizio went down with a broken bone in his foot Feb. 21 against Valpo, the prevailing opinion was that Chesterton's sectional chances went down with him.
"We've been hearing it all week," Cole Teal said.
The Trojans silenced the skeptics in Wednesday's Class 4A Valparaiso Sectional, where Teal's 23 points and Andrew Ralph's lock-down defense on Justin Osburn carried Chesterton to a 45-37 victory over the host Vikings.
In the second game, LaPorte held off Merrillville 62-49.
"Cole was the difference in the game," Chesterton coach Tom Peller said. "He willed us to win the game. His whole play, his offensive play and his leadership. Andrew's job on Osburn was really key. He's their guy, their senior leader."
Teal registered Chesterton's first seven points, bringing them from a 7-2 deficit. The Trojans countered with a 16-2 run and never trailed again. Teal posted all 10 Chesterton points in the third quarter, his back-to-back 3s reasserting the Trojans after Valpo (12-9) had briefly pulled even at 21.
"Chris obviously drew a lot of attention, but I've said it before, when we work the ball and get open looks, we're all capable shooters," Teal said. "My teammates trust me. They look for me. I'm definitely feeling in rhythm."
Chesterton (12-9) pushed the lead to 10 before a pair of Drew Paul treys revived Valpo. The Vikings edged within five and had the ball three times with a chance to get closer, but they couldn't muster the offense against a Trojans defense that held them to 31 points the last time.
"We knew someone other than Justin and Conner (TenHove) would have to make shots, and it just didn't happen," Valpo coach Matt Thomas said. "Ralph's a fantastic defender. Teal's just a gamer."
Osburn managed just four points on 1-of-7 shooting. He didn't get a shot off in the first half. TenHove topped Valpo with 14 points and six rebounds. Paul had 12 points.
"I have primarily a defense-first mindset," Ralph said. "It's my job to stop the other team's best player. It's a challenge to me and like it. (Osburn)'s a good player. It was my job to make him put it on the floor, to drive. The guys did a good job hard hedging (on screens) long enough for me to get back. Defense isn't just one guy."
Corey Rusboldt picked up nine points and nine rebounds for Chesterton, which shot 50 percent from the field (12 of 24) and the arc (5 of 10).
"To win the sectional, we have to be the best defensive team," Peller said. "We had to scrap and keep the game where we could control it, play a more patient game. Shot selection was important and other than a few possessions, we took good shots."
Valpo shot 34 percent, including 4-of-18 from deep.
In the second game, LaPorte rode big games from its main men, Josh Fleming (23 points) and Gage Ott (21 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks) to down Merrillville.
"It's a great league full of great players and we've got two of 'em," Slicers coach Tom Wells said. "I'll take 44 from those two the rest of the way. 'JJ' (Jacob Jones) does what he does. He's somebody teams know they've got to guard. He's an important piece of the puzzle. This group of seniors has a very determined look."
Fleming drilled three of LaPorte's five 3-pointers in the first quarter to get the Slicers (14-7) off and running. Ott did most of his damage in the second half, when LaPorte pulled away after Merrillville reduced the deficit to one.
"Josh got us off to such a great start," Wells said. "When he plays like that, he's such an anchor for us. We started to do a little better job on the backboard in the second half. For a while, they were playing volleyball. We didn't give them so many second chances and we got Gage more touches. They were in some foul trouble and we knew where the ball had to go."
Ott put down back-to-back dunks in the fourth quarter, one in transition and one on a lob to push the margin to double figures inside the three-minute mark.
"Ott was great defensively and very active," said Merrillville coach T.J. Lux, whose Pirates were hampered by 12-of-23 foul shooting. "Fleming did a great job controlling the tempo. You look at him and see how efficient he was. DJ (Wilkins)'s shooting never got comfortable."
Wilkins got a lesson from his senior counterpart, scoring four points while going 0-for-10 from the field.
"We've had some success taking away a team's lead guy," Wells said. "To kill the snake, you've got to cut off the head and it started with Wilkins. There are games where we try to protect Josh, but not at tournament time. We're going to put our best on their best and see how it pans out. As good of a job as Josh did on the offensive end, he did a hell of a job on Wilkins, too."
Jairus Stevens' 10 points topped the Pirates (4-16).
"I don't know if it was inexperience or whatever," Lux said. "This was the first time in a sectional for most of them. You always wonder they're going to react. Our seniors played their hearts out. This will be good for our young guys. They can learn a lot from this season, specifically this game. We just need guys to step up and make plays. We have to really learn and grow."
Wells was relieved not to need a last-second 3-pointer to elude Merrillville this time.
"If they're not the best 4-16 team in our part, maybe the entire state, I don't know who is," Wells said. "They're so long and obviously athletic. We knew it would be a grind."
HAMMOND | Griffith coach Gary Hayes had a smile on his face after Wednesday night's opening win over Hammond, 49-41, in the Class 3A sectional.
He was laughing a little about his two sophomore twins – 6-foot-4 Anthony Murphy and 6-foot-5 Tremell Murphy.
Hayes was talking about other great sets of twins in Hoosier Hysteria history. Like Dick and Tom Van Arsdale of Indianapolis Manuel fame.
“They used to switch uniforms all the time,” Hayes said. “I just need to get (Anthony) to grow a little first.”
The Murphys are not the Van Arsdales. They are not Arley or Harley Andrews (Terre Haute Gerstmeyer) either.
Fact is, the Murphys are natives of Chicago, where most think Michael Jordan was greater than Larry Bird.
Folks from our state, of course, know that that way of thinking is wrong.
“These guys were babies last year,” Hayes said of his star 10th graders.
Michelle Smith, “The Twins” mother, played basketball at Chicago Julian. Tremelle Murphy Sr., their father, played at Chicago Crane, then UIC.
The dad was playing pro ball in Spain and had to hurry home to see the double-vision birth.
“When they were babies, whenever I'd go in to see them they were always touching each other,” Smith said. “They're twins. They didn't want to be apart.”
Without a roster it would've been hard to tell the two apart. It seems they spend a third of the game on the floor, sliding for lose balls, crashing into the brick walls at the Hammond Civic Center.
“They always go 120 percent,” Murphy Sr. said. “They play hard.”
Anthony scored nine with eight rebounds. Tremell scored nine with nine rebounds and four blocks.
Almost a double-double.
Interviewing “The Twins” is hysterical. Just like in a Hollywood movie, they finish each other's sentences.
“Coach wants us to play up,” Tremell said.
“Like juniors,” Anthony finished.
“My mom and dad were always there for me supporting,” Anthony said.
“There for us,” Tremell added.
“We always finish each others ...” Anthony said.
“Sentences,” Tremell concluded.
The future for these two super sophs is so bright, I've got to put on some shades. You, too. They are not perfect, but very good.
A double-double may not be enough on Friday night. Bowman Academy pounded Lighthouse in the second game on Wednesday.
A Griffith win could move the Murphys closer to the Van Arsdales and Andrews. One thing is sure, it's going to be huge.
“We've been waiting for this,” Anthony said.
“All year,” Tremell said. “It's the biggest...”
“Game of the year,” Anthony added.
EAST CHICAGO | In the blink of an eye, it was easy to see that a different E.C. Central boys basketball team walked out of the locker room after halftime.
After holding just a 25-20 lead at the break, the Cardinals dominated defensively with a tenacious full-court press that led to some easy buckets in a 68-44 win over West Side in Class 4A Sectional 1 action.
“We made some minor adjustments and we also put in a different full-court press, and that kind of made the difference,” E.C. Central coach Abe Brown said. “We went 2-3 (zone) on half court, so that helped us out a lot.”
One of the beneficiaries of that halftime switch was Damien Jefferson, who led the Cardinals with 22 points and several put-back layups.
“He keeps rising to the occasion and taking care of business,” Brown said.
Christian Jacobs led West Side (9-10) with 16 points.
E.C. Central (12-9) advances to face Lake Central on Friday after the Indians routed Highland 76-39 in the first game of the evening. The Cardinals beat L.C. 58-50 on Feb. 11.
“Lake Central is going to come in here ready,” Brown said. “I know they’ve got a chip on their shoulder from us beating them the first time, but we’ve still got a chip on our shoulder because we want to continue to advance in the tournament.”
The Indians (17-3) jumped out to a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back, holding the Trojans (8-14) scoreless until Tommy Brankin hit a 3-pointer about two minutes into the second quarter.
“I thought we came out with some early jitters, which is good to see,” Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic said. “It’s nice to get a win along the way as opposed to getting a bye and seeing a really tough opponent on Friday with the jitters.”
Matt Meneghetti led the Indians with 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting from 3-point range. Tyler Ross added 11 for L.C.
“When he’s on the floor, it’s dangerous to press us or zone us,” Milausnic said. “He’s that good of a shooter.”
Brankin led Highland with 19 points -- including four 3-pointers.
WHEATFIELD | Kankakee Valley was trying to avoid being eliminated for the third time in the past four sectionals by rival Andrean on Wednesday night at the Class 3A Kankakee Valley Sectional.
Andrean (11-9) withstood two K.V. fourth-quarter rallies and held on for a 43-39 victory.
The Niners advance to Friday’s semifinals to play Knox, which defeated Hanover Central 53-47.
Calumet will face New Prairie in the first semifinal.
“They played hard, and we knew it would be a tough game coming in,” said Andrean junior Nick Podkul of the host. “We knew we couldn’t take them lightly. It’s at K.V. They have a student section. We both battled, and luckily we got it done.”
Andrean led 9-5 after one quarter and 21-16 at the half before K.V. (8-14) found some life.
Logan Abbring and Steve Ganzeveld hit 3-pointers to pull the Kougars even at 26-26 with 2 minutes and 30 seconds left in the third quarter. A Matt Anjorin bucket gave Andrean a 28-26 with 8 minutes left.
The lead changed hands four times with Andrean holding a 33-31 lead on three ball from Parker Huttel. K.V. tied it at 33-33, but Andrean answered again on threes by Ben Davidson and Nick Podkul to open a 39-33 cushion.
“They make a run and to be able to sustain that was huge,” Andrean coach Scott Hicko said.. “My guys responded.”
Andrean led 2-33 lead with 1:37 left but missed five free throws down the stretch to give K.V. an opening. A 3-pointer and three free throws by Darrick Webster got K.V. within 42-39 with :10 left, before Frank Podkul hit one of two free throws to wrap up the win.
Frank Podkul said the team gained confidence from close finishes like the Noll game.
“You can tell guys like Colin (Flowers) and our real young sophomore have started to mature now after playing some big games like that,” he said. “That’s really helped us out.”
Davidson led the Niners with 10 points, while Nick Podkul finished with nine.
“We’ve got to do a better job down the stretch closing out games,” Hicko said.
Webster tallied 15 to pace the Kougars, while Ganzeveld finished with 11.
“If you give up 43, you expect to win,” Kankakee Valley coach Nathan VanDuyne said. “Ultimately, it came down to our inability to score.
“This year we got better as the game went on, and that’s something I’m very proud of for these guys. I couldn’t be happier.”
HAMMOND | Bad free-throw shooting usually equals postseason losses, but Griffith got away with missing the gimme's down the stretch to hold off Hammond 49-41 Wednesday in the Class 3A Hammond Sectional at the Civic Center.
"(Missing free throws) put us in a tough spot," Panthers coach Gary Hayes said. "Hammond plays us tough. For some reason, we struggle with them."
Griffith will take on Bowman in the sectional semifinal. Bowman easily took the nightcap 111-62 over fellow Gary charter Lighthouse.
The Panthers (16-6) allowed Hammond to hang around in the fourth quarter, missing from the charity stripe and committing some sloppy turnovers.
Erick Johnson led a third-quarter charge for Griffith. The Panthers opened that frame with a 10-2 run and built a lead that peaked at 13 points.
"We rebounded better (in the third quarter). We knew we just needed to get after it more," Johnson said. "We knew we'd have to pick it up after the first half."
Johnson scored 11 points in the contest and pulled down five rebounds, but almost all of that stat line came in the third quarter.
"I saw the open lanes and I just attacked them," Johnson said. "We knew we had to do something."
The Wildcats (13-10) were buoyed by the play of Jeremiah Wilson in the first half. Wilson blocked two shots and affected several others.
The senior forward finished with eight points and four rebounds before fouling out early in the fourth quarter.
"In the first half, we wouldn't box (Wilson) out," Hayes said. "We knew Hammond high runs 70 to 80 percent to the right side, so all their shots come off the left side. We needed to seal them off on that side and we didn't do it."
The Eagles (16-4), ranked No. 3 in Class 3A in the final Associated Press poll, put on a full-court press for the duration of the game. That led to plenty of steals and transition buckets.
Lighthouse (11-6) led the game 4-0, but after giving up that lead three minutes into the game the Lions never had the advantage again.
Austin Daniels led Bowman with 17 points, while Anthony Cole and Martin Schiele each scored 16. JaQuan Robinson paced Lighthouse with 16.
Eagles forward and Division I recruit Davon Dillard dressed but did not play.
HEBRON | Heavy favorite Bishop Noll took a little while to shake off Lake Station on Tuesday night in the second game of the Class 2A Hebron Sectional.
But the Warriors asserted themselves after the break, sprinting to a 67-51 victory.
Noll (19-3) will face River Forest (9-11) in Friday's second semifinal. Host Hebron will take on Whiting after beating Porter County Conference foe Boone Grove 38-35 in the opener.
Four players scored in double figures for Noll, as Larry Crisler led the way with 20 points, six rebounds and five assists.
"It was one of our better team efforts by far," Noll coach Josh Belluomini said. "This is the way we've been wanting to play all year, and we finally did it as a team."
Tyreon Gates added 16 points and four steals for the Warriors. Jaylen Hord came off the bench to contribute 11 points, and Marquis Tarver tallied 10 to go along with three assists.
Lake Station (15-6) led early on, but the Warriors outscored the Eagles 14-4 to close the first quarter with a 16-9 lead.
Noll led just 35-27 at the break, as Lake Station stayed in it by making 13-of-15 free throws.
"That's what kept them in the game," Belluomini said. "But we kept plugging along and tried to play four great quarters."
The Warriors built a 21-point lead midway through the fourth quarter and cruised to the victory.
For Lake Station, senior Dwayne Haden scored 18 points while Ben Neals added 14 points and seven rebounds. The Eagles committed 23 turnovers.
"We're starting to play better and we're making smarter decisions," Belluomini said.
It was Noll's third win this season over Lake Station.
In the opener, Hebron's Tony Rose didn't want to see his career come to an end.
The lone senior on the Hawks' roster, Rose scored a game-high 19 points as Hebron (13-9) avenged a 57-48 loss to Boone Grove on Feb. 18.
Rose fouled out with 2:39 remaining on an offensive charge, with his team leading by just four points.
"I heard him on the bench during timeouts encouraging his teammates," Hebron coach John Steinhilber said. "And he's a guy that never says anything."
Boone scored 21 first-quarter points in the game two weeks ago, so Steinhilber knew his team couldn't allow that to happen again.
The Wolves (6-14) did lead 11-7 after one quarter, as senior Jon Hogg got off to a fast start hitting his first three shots from the floor. But the Hawks rallied in the second quarter, taking a 20-15 lead on a steal and breakaway by Rose with 2:30 remaining.
Hebron led 21-19 at the break. Boone tied it on three free throws by Kyle Kaminski at 3:02 of the third, and briefly led 29-28 on a free throw by Sam Eleftheri.
But the Hawks held Boone to 2-for-17 shooting in the fourth quarter. The Wolves didn't help themselves either, making just 2 of 8 from the line.
Hogg finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and three assists for Boone but he struggled in the second half.
"We did a great job defensively on him," Steinhilber said. "That as a pretty good PCC defensive battle. I knew it would be a good ballgame and we made the plays down the stretch to get the win."
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