NORTH JUDSON | For eight minutes Saturday morning, underdog Boone Grove had the measure of Fort Wayne Luers, moving with purpose and passing crisply to set up several layups.
"No matter who we've played this year, the first quarter, we have executed very well," Wolves coach Matt McKay said. "When teams have played man-to-man, our offense has been very difficult to guard. It's when teams switch to zones that we've struggled."
Sure enough, the Knights moved to a zone during the second quarter of the Class 2A North Judson Regional semifinal, and it went downhill quickly for the Wolves. Luers outscored Boone 15-2 in that span and pulled away for a 60-34 victory.
"Whenever you play teams of that caliber and don't finish shots, make free throws and take advantage of mistakes, they have a tendency to take advantage of yours," McKay said. "It wasn't because we didn't have opportunities. Once we got behind, we knew they were going to sit in a zone and one of our weaknesses all year long has been shooting the ball from the perimeter. We couldn't buy a basket for a while."
After going up 16-13 on Skyler Mizgate's three-point play late in the first, Boone (14-9) went more than 12 minutes with just two points. At the other end, Luers D-I prospect James Blackmon heated up for 10 of his game-high 26 points.
"I thought we actually did a pretty good job defensively," McKay said. "If we can knock down some baskets, maybe it's a little different story, but looking at it realistically, the team with the most talent generally wins."
Boone shot just 8-for-33 after a 7-of-9 start. Jake Clapp led the Wolves with 10 points, while Jordan Jana nabbed 10 rebounds. Dean Hill had five assists, but didn't score.
"What these guys accomplished was a tribute to their character and hard work," McKay said.
Luers (16-6) advanced to face Bowman Academy (15-9), which held off LaVille 65-58.
"They came after us," Bowman coach Marvin Rea said. "They were prepared. I told the guys we don't need to blow teams out, just win the game. That's the only stat that matters right now."
The Lancers (18-7) hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter, three by Andrew Hostetler, who had six in all, to stay on Bowman's heels. They had a chance to tie the game in the final minute with a three, but missed and the Eagles secured the advancement at the free throw line.
"We pride ourselves on being deep," Rea said. "They were knocking down shots, but their legs might have gotten tired. We didn't want to show our hand too early. The fourth quarter, we came out in a tight man-to-man. We wanted to get after (Hostetler and Nicholas Amor) and make someone else beat us."
Arthur Haggard paced Bowman with 20 points and seven of its 15 steals.
"'Hagg's going to shoot the ball at crunch time," Rea said. "I just have to try to find him an earpiece. I was joking with him, we're up six, why are you shooting the ball? He's a big play type of guy. He's come up huge for us in the postseason."
Antonio Pipkin and Justin King backed Haggard with 12 and 10 points, respectively.