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.”