KOUTS — Fourteen years old, first sectional game, no problem.
Jose Jenkins entered the postseason averaging 3.4 points per game. At Wednesday night's Class A Kouts Sectional, the Westville frosh stepped his game to new heights scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds for the Blackhawks as they trailed only once in a 61-50 win over Kouts.
They will play LaCrosse who rallied in the second half to defeat Hammond Academy 45-40 in the earlier game.
"Jose Jenkins coming out as a freshman and playing that kind of game right there, we needed that from him big time, that set the tone," Westville coach Nate Mrozinski said. "He's always been capable of doing that, it's just about getting him in those right spots at the right time and attacking at the right moments. He has the athletic ability and the size and he's a monster, he's huge for being only 14.
"To come in under control like he did, players feed off of that. For a guy like that averaging three points to come out and get 15 and 7, every bucket he scores brings everyone else that much higher. He fueled the whole game for us (Wednesday) and I can't say enough about Jenkins right now."
The Blackhawks (16-8) put three players in double figures led by Cade Albers' double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds. Tyrese Walker matched Jenkins with 15 points and Chase Klosinski snagged a team-high 12 boards off the bench.
"It was a well-rounded game from everybody," Mrozinski said. "I was more happy with our defense than anything. (Kouts) hit a lot of tough shots in the fourth, and guys are looking over at me and at that point you just gotta say 'good shot' because we were there with hands up. It was a good, well-rounded game and we just made more than enough plays to come out on top."
Westville trailed just once throughout the night when it was 3-2 and led by seven at halftime and pushed it to 11 by the end of the third.
Jenkins scored nine points in the fourth, eclipsing his previous season-high of eight.
"It feels good," Jenkins said of his game. "I just had to play strong and do my part. It amped up the rest of the team and made them happy. I finished some of the moves I've been working on."
Zac Nomanson and Brent Wireman led the Mustangs (11-12) with 13 points each. Dillan Matthes chipped in 11.
Kouts was plagued by its shooting woes, going 15 of 50 from the field and 14 of 26 from the charity stripe.
"We got spread out on defense and and they found guys to make shots," Kouts coach Kevin Duzan siad. "We played their style and we have to be a little more disciplined than that going ahead. (Westville) is a good team and we played them three times and battled them tough three times. We were there in the fourth, but we just couldn't close the gap and they made their free throws down the stretch."
In the earlier game, LaCrosse found itself in unfamiliar territory against a team it had beat by 35 earlier in the year. Trailing by nine midway through the third, the Tigers used a 14-2 run, highlighted by two of Jaye Mitzner's three fourth-quarter 3s, to secure a semifinal berth.
Coming in averaging three points, Mitzner had a season-high 11. Nathan Jones added 10 points, all in the first half.
“We finally made some shots,” LaCrosse coach Preston Frame said. “(Hammond Academy) was really packing the zone tight and they forced us to hit shots and we didn't make a single one in the first half. I challenged the guys at half to step up and make shots to spread it out and Jaye Mitzner stepped up. He did a great job knocking them down when we needed it.”
Dorwynn Smith III had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Hawks (2-21).
“We haven't been in that situation all year and, as funny as it sounds, I think we got up nine and got tight,” coach Eric Speer said. “We came out of half with a mentality to open it up and I actually think we got up and we're sort of shocked by it. When it got to 29-22 it felt like 'uh oh, here we go again' and I felt we could never gather ourselves the rest of the half.”