LOGANSPORT — This wasn’t how DJ Moss, Ashton Williamson and company wanted their season to end Saturday in the Berry Bowl in the Class 2A Logansport Semistate.
Gary 21st Century fell behind by 14 points in the second quarter and battled back to get within 2 points on three separate occasions in the fourth quarter before losing to Fort Wayne Blackhawk 88-82. It was the second straight season 21st Century was eliminated in the semistate.
“It was a good run for our team,” said Moss, a senior who finished with 16 points, six rebounds and 4 assists. “It felt pretty good, but we were trying to go down to state this year. It was a good game.”
Moss’ voice trailed off as the team’s dream of winning the Class 2A state championship was unfulfilled.
“We didn’t clean up the glass like we’re supposed to,” said a sullen Williamson, who poured in a team-high 29 points, dished out six assists and grabbed four rebounds in his last game for 21st. “But now, it’s the younger guys’ chance to step up and get past what we did this year.”
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The Cougars (21-6) jumped out to an 11-2 lead at the outset, but the Braves (25-3) tied the game at 13-13 after one quarter. Blackhawk continued its streak through the second quarter, using a 19-6 run to go up 29-19 midway through the period. Williamson hit two 3-point field goals in the final minute of the second quarter, but Blackhawk led 44-31 at halftime.
Blackhawk’s Josh Furst, younger brother of Purdue’s Caleb Furst, scored 18 of his game-high 30 points in the first half.
“We put multiple guys on him,” Williamson said. “DJ defended him well. It just didn’t fall our way. We should’ve done more than we were supposed to do.”
The Cougars battled throughout the third quarter, using a full-court press to keep it close. Baskets by Moss and Williamson got 21st within 54-49 with 2:31 left in the third. Jermiya Henderson-Sims drained a 3-ball and Moss scored inside, and Blackhawk led just 57-54 with eight minutes left.
“We fought hard the whole season,” coach Larry Upshaw said. “To be down and fight back, we’re not quitters. We’ve kind of instilled that in them every day.”
The Cougars kept battling. Two free throws by Moss cut the deficit to 59-57, and a jumper by Terrence Hayes Jr. pulled 21st within 63-61 with just under 6:00 remaining.
But Blackhawk had an answer to each run. Hayes scored again to pull 21st within 67-64 with 4:10 remaining, but it didn’t get any closer the rest of the way.
“We should’ve been patient and just followed our plan,” Williamson said.
The Cougars battled foul trouble most of the game as Quintin Floyd, Lemetrius Williams and Williamson all had four fouls before the third quarter ended. 21st was whistled for 22 fouls to 10 for Blackhawk. The Braves converted 31-of-39 free throws, while the Cougars made just 11 of 17.
“We were attacking the basket in the first quarter,” Upshaw said. “It was discouraging that we didn't get a couple of particular plays. Moss went in for a dunk and got whacked across the face — a big whack and no call.
Williams and Moss were on the bench with three fouls each when Blackhawk stretched the lead in the second quarter as Furst had his way inside.
“We had to play some people who don’t normally get minutes in that spot in the game,” Upshaw said. “That’s my rim protection right there. It’s kind of hard to protect the basket. ... You’ve got to match that physicality, and I just felt like, again, we took some momentum-swinging calls. I’m not saying they were the wrong calls, it just happened at a bad time.”
The Cougars shot 43% from the field (28-65), while the Braves shot 49% (25-51).
“We made some tough shots,” Upshaw said.
Hayes contributed 10 points off the bench, while Roy Cast added seven points and six rebounds.
“It hurts, more for them,” said Upshaw of his squad. “They expected to win the game.”