MERRILLVILLE | Tyler Wideman isn’t really an old dog. Next fall he’ll be a new ‘Dog, as a Butler Bulldog.
However, something about playing his rival Bulldogs from Crown Point brings out the newer tricks in the dominant Lake Central center.
In the past, the 6-foot-8 dunking machine has done his usual damage with post points and rebounds and added some flair in the form of 3-pointers.
On Saturday night in the championship of the inaugural Merrillville Holiday Tournament, a miniature Duneland Athletic Conference tournament to wean teams off the old double round-robin format, Wideman showed he isn’t too old to show off newer tricks.
Wideman tallied an impressive six assists out of the paint to go with his 26 points and six rebounds as Times No. 2 Lake Central beat No. 7 Crown Point 71-45 to take home the plaque from the tournament.
Wideman entered the game with 974 career points and got to exactly 1,000 with his final basket, a putback of a teammate’s miss. His scoring has been a constant, but now instead of over-passing, he’s become increasingly better at finding open teammates when his defender might have good position on him.
He had four assists in the first half and opened the third quarter with back-to-back passes out of the post that resulted in 3-pointers for Matt Meneghetti.
“Passing for Tyler isn’t really a new thing,” Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic said. “He’s been averaging a couple assists per game for most of his career. He’s a pretty good interior passer.”
Wideman’s first two assists went to Tyler Ross, who had seven of his 11 points in the first quarter as the Indians built a 13-6 lead that grew to 19-10 after a quarter and 27-14 early in the second period.
“With two games in one day anything can happen,” Milausnic said. “Crown Point has a nice club, and we were fortunate to get in front of them out of the gate and make them have to chase us.”
Wideman scored 18 of his game-high 26 in the first half as L.C. (7-1) took a 39-22 lead into the locker room.
“He’s a complete player, and more importantly they’re a complete team,” Crown Point coach Clint Swan said. “They’ve got a lot of pieces of the puzzle and a lot of seniors.”
The Bulldogs (4-2) went from shooting more than 60 percent from 3-point range in back-to-back games, including a 60-39 semifinal win over Portage Saturday morning, to going 4-for-18 (22 percent) against the Indians. Lake Central entered the game holding opponents to 18 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
L.C.’s Tye Wilburn (eight points, nine assists, six steals) and Joe Bannister ran all night chasing Crown Point’s top shooters through screens and cuts.
Nick Jeffirs led the Bulldogs with 13 points, and Bret Barclay added 12.
“Tonight was a bit of an eye-opener for us,” Swan said. “I’m pleased with how we battled back in the second half, but the first half they punched us in the mouth, and we were a little starry-eyed.”
The task of hosting the event went to Merrillville (1-5), which graduated 99 percent of its scoring and minutes and didn’t have top player DJ Wilkins on Saturday.
Taking advantage of a rebuilding season, Portage upended the Pirates 54-45 in Saturday evening’s consolation game.
The Indians (4-3) hadn’t beaten Merrillville since March 2004 and snapped a 23-game losing streak to the Pirates.