LAPORTE | Tom Wells’ LaPorte boys basketball team didn’t make winning its first Duneland Athletic Conference game of the year easy.
The Slicers led by as many as 15 in the first half and then watched that lead evaporate only to come up with big plays in the final seconds and come away with a 53-50 win over Portage on Friday night.
“We have had the lead on a lot of good teams and then things go south and we don’t have the answer, and we could have went south again,” Wells said. “That validates the hard work these kids are giving us Monday through Thursday.”
Trailing 50-48, LaPorte’s Mitch Mrozinski canned a baseline jumper to knot the game at 50 with 1:31 to go. Portage missed on its possession, and Mrozinski was fouled with 39.2 seconds left. He missed the first but made the second to give LaPorte (3-12, 1-9 DAC) a one-point lead.
Portage followed with a miss from Jordan Collazzo in the lane. Jordan Simpson briefly had the offensive rebound, but Josh Fleming stole it away for the Slicers.
Jacob Jones was fouled, but he missed both free throws giving the Indians (8-9, 2-8) one final chance.
The inbounds pass went out of bounds, giving it back to LaPorte, and Josh Fleming drained two free throws to cap the scoring. Fleming finished with a team-high 18 points.
“There was no question who the best player on the floor is,” Wells said of Fleming. “I think his strength was the difference.”
Gage Ott added 17 points and six rebounds for LaPorte.
“They didn’t have an answer for him,” said Wells. “We did a pretty good job getting it to him and he ends up getting to the free throw line.”
The Slicers paced by Ott in the first quarter and Fleming in the second, took a seven-point lead at the half and built it to 15 at 34-19 on a 3-pointer from Mrozinski with 5:38 left in the third quarter. It was LaPorte’s last field goal for more than nine minutes.
Portage followed with a 24-8 run to grab a 43-42 lead with 5:32 to play on a 3-pointer from Peter Psomadelis.
Psomadelis finished with 14 points, 13 coming in the second half. Simpson led the Indians with 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting from behind the arc.
Collazzo added 11 points and nine assists.