MICHIGAN CITY | Among all the rebounds Tyler Wideman has grabbed and will grab in his career, this is one he will never forget.
Lake Central's 6-foot-7 senior center put back a Tye Wilburn miss with 3 seconds left to give the Indians a heart-pounding 57-55 victory over Penn in Saturday's Class 4A Michigan City Regional championship.
"Before the play, I set a ball screen so I was already in motion," Wideman said. "Tye drove and I had a feeling I was going to get a chance to rebound if he missed, so I crashed the boards. I'm so happy it worked out. They had the momentum going. It could've went either way."
Jordan Geist put Penn (23-2) on his back in the second half, scoring 20 points, including the game-tying 17-footer with 22 seconds left. Rather than call a timeout, L.C. coach Dave Milausnic ran an isolation play to the right side for Wilburn.
"We had success with it in first half," Milausnic said. "I thought he showed a little early, but we put it on his shoulders. It was a great take and Tyler was there to clean it up."
"Big Tyler's one of the best big men in the state, in the country, however you want to put it," Wilburn said. "My intention was to get it up as high as I could so they couldn't block it, also so if I missed, we could get the rebound."
Robert Ryan stole the inbounds pass to ice the win.
"I was worried we were going to celebrate, but we got back and Robert got it," Milausnic said. "Then we could celebrate."
For a long while, it didn't look L.C. would need to wait that long. Using a stifling half-court defense and strong inside play, it built a 15-point first-half lead. Cory Dickelman notched eight of the Indians' first 10 points, all on inside baskets, and a Matt Meneghetti 3 pushed LC in front 13-4.
It was Wideman's turn in the second quarter, when he registered seven points. Wilburn was just as difficult to deal with off the dribble, blowing by the defense for three baskets. His layup gave L.C. its largest advantage at 29-14.
"First of all, it was great defense by Lake Central," Penn coach Al Rhodes said. "We weren't able to reverse the ball with good choices. Also, they limited us to one shot."
Penn made a 10-0 run in the third quarter to close within three, but three treys, two by Tyler Ross (one of them off the board) and another by Meneghetti, pushed the margin back to double figures.
The Kingsmen (23-2) rallied again, eventually pulling even on the Geist jumper.
"We showed a lot of courage coming back in the second half, but we couldn't keep the big guy (Wideman) off the glass," Rhodes said.
Wideman scored 16 points, Wilburn 12 and Dickelman 10 for L.C.
"We did it more for our school than for ourselves," Wilburn said. "It's been 30 years. We had to get it for our school."
Somewhere across the country, Bo Cucuz, Milan Petrovic, Chris Kostouros and the rest of the 1984 Lake Central Final Four team are celebrating, too. That stands as the Indians' only trip to the state finals, back when it was a four-team event, and its only previous regional title
"We'll enjoy it for 18 hours, then we'll start on next week," Milausnic said. "As long as we keep getting to the next game, we're not going to be content."