HAMMOND | Apparently the postseason isn’t over.
Players representing the area’s three semistate teams continued their clutch play from March and had pivotal roles in Friday night’s thrilling conclusion to the triple-header Northwest Indiana All-Star Classic at Purdue Calumet.
Antonio Pipkin of Class 2A state champion Bowman Academy stepped inside for a tiebreaking 19-footer with 18 seconds to go, and it accounted for the final points of a 112-110 victory for the Away Team in the Senior Stars game.
Lake Central’s Tye Wilburn had a triple-double in the Rising Stars game, featuring underclassmen, as his White Team beat the Black Team 138-91 in the last local game for Chesterton’s Matt Holba and probably the last for Chris Palombizio.
“On the possession before that I missed a 3-pointer that went in and out,” Pipkin said. “I knew I was going to get the ball again on the same play, so I faked it, dribbled once and just knew I had to knock it down.”
Pipkin nailed the shot, and Andrean’s Collin Wojcik, who had hit five 3s earlier, missed from deep, and the rebound was not corralled until the clock hit zero. A trio of Merrillville players — Jelani Pruitt (team-high 18 points), Zoran Talley (14) and B.J. Jenkins (11) — had helped the Home Team rally from a double-digit deficit with clutch shots.
Bowman won state, and Merrillville and Andrean were stopped in the semistate round.
“It’s an honor to win this,” Pipkin said. “I’m leaving a lot behind (at Bowman), but I’m going out with another win. It’s fun and exciting to have this uniform on and play basketball.”
Pipkin will wear his Bowman jersey for the final time next weekend at the McLegends game at Thornton.
Away teammate Charles Cooper of Lew Wallace was named game MVP with 26 points. Wallace teammate Travon Boddie had 14.
“We just stopped their 3-point shots and played good defense, and it led to fast breaks,” Cooper said. “I’m glad it ended like this for me in this uniform. Now I’m just trying to find another school to go to.”
The undercard matchup, featuring most of the area’s best high school juniors, was a going-away party for three Chesterton players.
Palombizio led all scorers with 30 points, including 21 in the first half as White built a 68-43 lead, and then confirmed he is pondering a transfer.
Teammate Matt Holba is already on record with a transfer to Guerin Catholic based on his family moving out of the area. Palombizio does not have an official destination but is looking at alternative options. Chesterton’s Cole Teal is staying put, but likely suited up with Holba and Palombizio for the final time representing the Trojans.
“Us three are best friends, and we’re going to miss playing all together,” Palombizio said. “It’s definitely been fun playing with them.”
Other than the swan song, the Rising Stars game was over shortly after E.C. Central’s Jeremiah Ochoa (6 points, 6 assists) scored a breakaway layup to give the White squad the lead for good at 18-17.
Wilburn had 10 points, 10 steals and 20 assists. He purposely slowed down on fast breaks to get assists, with willing dunkers such as Gage Ott (LaPorte) and Christian Jacobs (West Side) waiting to flush the ball.
“It was fun to be out here with the best players in the area,” Wilburn said. “Both sides were evenly matched, but we were more aggressive and took better shots.”
Marquette’s Ryan Fazekas led the Black Team with 17 points, and Bowman’s Justin King added 15.
In the Future Stars game, featuring middle-schoolers, the White Team beat the Black 92-69.
Nicholas Mantis of Lowell led the victors with 18 points, while East Chicago’s Keishawn Lewis had 16 for the Black.