ST. JOHN | It looked real good. Like a 20-pound turkey on a table surrounded by family and friends.
With 5:14 left in Saturday's matinee between Times No. 1 Lake Central and Class 4A No. 7 Hamilton-Southeastern, the score was tied at 54. The Indians were battling back from an awful start to the second half and looked ready to make a final charge.
That's when the Royals' Tyler Jenkins nailed back-to-back 3-pointers that gave HSE the 73-63 win.
“Those were daggers,” Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic said.
“That was big,” Royals coach Brian Satterfield said.
Senior Zak Irvin led the way with 20 points and eight rebounds, but Lake Central's defense did keep the 6-foot-6 Michigan-bound standout 10 points under his season average.
“He hit shots that no one else on our schedule will hit,” Milausnic said.
The problem was the rest of the Royals' starting five. They were all in double-digit scoring. Ross Risley and Jenkins had 12, Paul Furlin added 11 and Eric Davidson had 10.
And unlike Friday's game at Bowman Academy, where HSE (3-0) was 11-of-19 from the free throw stripe in the fourth quarter, the Royals were 7-of-8 in the final eight minutes when the Indians (1-1) were scrapping to get back in the game.
Lake Central ended the game 15-of-26 from the line.
“That's been our Achilles heel,” Milausnic said.
The Indians played well in the first half, with junior Tyler Wideman playing a game that was akin to his frame. He had 12 of his 16 points in the first half.
That meant a lot to the 6-foot-6 post man since he was unable to play against the Royals last year due to picking up two technical fouls in the opener against West Side.
“It was the first time I played against that team so it felt pretty good,” Wideman said. “I was motivated because I didn't play last year and I wasn't able to help my team out.”
The Indians led 33-32 at the break but HSE started the third quarter on a 9-0 run and L.C. had six turnovers.
The Indians' Nikes turned into cement boots during this stretch, where the Royals defense came out and defended the home guards making it difficult to run any offense.
Then, instead of trying to play a 5-man game, the Indians started going one-on-one to no avail.
“The start of the third quarter was the difference,” Milausnic said. “The ball got glued to our kids' hands.”
Tye Wilburn led the Indians with 17 points. Mike Miklusak chipped in 12.
“We came out dead,” Wilburn said. “We were flat-footed. If we would've came out and played in the second half like we did in the first it would've been a different story.”