BY DEAN HOCKNEY
WHEATFIELD, Ind. – For 394 Indiana high school basketball teams, the season ends with a loss. For a pair of Howard County teams, that loss happened last week – but not before a thrilling ride into the Sweet Sixteen round of the annual IHSAA Boys Basketball Tournament. Northwestern, after its surprise sectional title, fell 61-35 to No. 3 Griffith in the semifinals of the Class 3A Kankakee Valley Regional. And Eastern’s magical ride ended with a 62-35 loss to No. 2 Lapel in a Lapel Regional semifinal.
At Lapel, a red-hot home team scorched the nets at a clip of nearly 60-percent for the game, and in the process, dash the dreams of a Comets squad that a week before had won its first sectional title in 60 years. Eastern led early, but trailed 18-14 at the end of the first stanza. But Lapel (24-4) roared to life and went on a 17-0 run, and in the second quarter knocked down 5 of 6 triples to lead 35-16 at the break. And while Lapel played well, Eastern’s leading scorer Braden Evans picked up a third foul as the Comets hit just 1 of 8 shots in the quarter.
The second half started like the second quarter ended – Lapel ripped off six points to bring its run to 23-0 against Eastern. Trey Thomas ended the run with a bucket for Eastern nearly three minutes into the third frame. Evans scored 12 points to lead Eastern – he ends his career with 1,104 career points. Thomas added 11 as the Comets finished the season a respectable 21-6.
At Kankakee Valley, Northwestern gave the defending state runners-up all they wanted. Griffith sharp-shooter Martin Schiele started the game with a trio of triples (including a rare 4-point play to start the scoring) and single-handedly led the Tigers 10-0 three minutes into the game.
But despite only one field goal from Noah Dowden, Northwestern trailed Griffith by only four points after one quarter, 12-8. Griffith extended its lead in the second as the Panthers defense forced five Tigers turnovers – Griffith led 27-16 at halftime. And midway through the third quarter they were still within 11 points. But Griffith closed on a 10-3 run – thanks in part to a monster dunk from Tremell Murphy – and the highly-ranked Panthers (25-3) shut the door on the overachieving Tigers (10-13).
Griffith advances to play No. 11 Marion (21-7) in the Lafayette Semi-State while Lapel will battle Fort Wayne Canterbury (16-10) in the Huntington Semi-State.