Archive for March 15, 2016

EASTERN, NORTHWESTERN BOW OUT OF IHSAA BOYS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT IN THE SWEET SIXTEEN

Northwestern senior Quinlan Armstrong shoots a free throw in the Kankakee Valley Regional. (SJ photo by William Gibson)

Northwestern senior Quinlan Armstrong shoots a free throw in the Kankakee Valley Regional. (SJ photo by William Gibson)

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.

60 YEARS IN THE MAKING: EASTERN COMETS ARE BOYS BASKETBALL SECTIONAL CHAMPS FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 1956

Eastern Champs

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

ELWOOD, Ind. – To say it was a long time coming is an understatement. For 59 years, the Eastern Comets entered the IHSAA boys basketball tournament, only to be turned away in the sectional round. But last Saturday night in Elwood, that all changed when the Comets defeated Taylor 53-49 to hoist its first sectional championship trophy since 1956 – a championship 60 years in the making.

In front of a rocking John W. Ward Gymnasium crowd – more than 1,000 sporting the green and gold of Eastern – the Comets took control in the second half only to stave off a furious Taylor rally in the closing minutes of the Class 2A Sectional 39 title bout. But when the final horn sounded, a long celebration began that concluded with a fire truck escort of the Comets back into Greentown and an impromptu pep rally in front of the EHS gym.

“I can’t describe this feeling right now,” said Eastern senior Braden Evans, who earlier this year became the sixth member of the Comets 1,000 Point Club (1,092 career points). “We have worked so hard to accomplish this. We went to the sectional championship two years ago, and now to do this – man, this is amazing.”

Senior Jacob Kinder reflected on growing up in the Comets basketball system.

“Growing up, when we started playing together, we were never champs or anything,” he said. “We were never the big dog. This sectional is very special to me.”

Senior Trey Thomas, who was in tears as he took in the celebration – a celebration that included 1956 championship team members Dwight Singer, Dick Mugg and Harold Harvey – was equally thrilled with the rare title.

“I want to praise God for giving us this opportunity. I thank him for letting us succeed,” said Thomas. “Man, this is an amazing feeling – best feeling ever.”

Eastern jumped out to a quick lead, controlling the first quarter 14-7 on 5 for 9 shooting from the field. Kinder looked to put the game away early in the second stanza with a 3-point basket only to see Taylor take control and trim the lead to 21-18 at the break.

The Titans continued surging to start the second half, tying the game at 23 on a Camden Kimbler old-fashioned 3-point play. But Evans found his stroke, hitting nine points in the quarter to help Eastern close the third stanza on an 11-1 run.

But again, just when it looked like Eastern was going to pull away for the easy victory, Hall of Fame coach Basil Mawbey and his Titans found a way to get back in the game. Darian Stone hit a triple and 2-point bucket to draw Taylor back to five points only to see Eastern respond with an 8-1 run to lead 42-30 midway through the fourth. Still up 12 with three minutes left – thanks in part to a key put-back by senior Tristen Moyers – Eastern needed one final stand to win.

Stone hit a pair of 3-pointers, Malin Vazquez scored on a drive and Cole Schroeder stole the ensuing inbounds and scored to trim the Comets lead to 50-46 with 28 ticks left – and in the process bring the strong Taylor crowd to a loud roar. Out of a timeout, Evans got loose for Eastern and scored on the inside, was fouled and dropped in the freebie with 15 seconds left and a 53-46 lead. Stone hit his fourth 3-pointer of the quarter at the buzzer, but it was too late as the Comets stormed the court to claim the school’s second boys hoops sectional trophy.

“They played well and made things happen,” said Mawbey. “We had no stop for Evans. Credit to the Comets and Coach Springer. But I am really proud of our kids. Even with 30 seconds to go we are within four. We just couldn’t get the win tonight. The big key for us was Darian Stone wanted to win it as bad as I have ever seen someone want to win. Just proud of our guys.”

Only four players scored for Eastern: Evans had 27 (16 in second half), Kinder scored 10 and Thomas and Moyers had eight each. For Taylor, Stone led the way with 19 points while Donavan Renbarger added 11 and Vazquez eight.

The Comets (21-5) advance to the Class 2A Sweet Sixteen to play No. 2 Lapel (22-4) in game two of the Lapel Regional at approximately noon Saturday. Game one features No. 3 Oak Hill (22-3) and Covington (16-9) at 10 a.m. Eastern has never won a regional championship, so a regional title would be 66 years in the making.

See this week’s edition of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana and the Kokomo Herald for more on this story

BOYS BASKETBALL SECTIONAL SEMIFINAL RESULTS (HOWARD AND TIPTON COUNTY TEAMS)

IHSAA

HOWARD AND TIPTON COUNTY TEAMS

Class 4A Sectional 7 at Logansport

G1: Zionsville def. Kokomo 80-51

G2: #4 McCutcheon def. Logansport 71-48

G3: Zionsville def. Harrison 59-47

G4: #4 McCutcheon def. Lafayette Jeff 62-35

Champ: #5 McCutcheon (25-3) def. Zionsville 71-57

Class 3A Sectional 20 at Benton Central

G1: Benton Central def. Peru 64-59 OT

G2: Western def. West Lafayette 57-56 OT

G3: Northwestern def. Benton Central 53-28

G4: Maconaquah def. Western 45-43

Champ: Northwestern def. Maconaquah 37-34

Northwestern (10-12) plays #3 Griffith (23-3) in Kankakee Valley Regional (game 2 at approx. 12 p.m.)

Class 3A Sectional 24 at Marion

G1: #11 Marion def. Blackford 80-41

G2: Yorktown def. Delta 45-38

G3: #11 Marion def. #16 Hamilton Hts 74-67

G4: #7 Tipton def. Yorktown 67-24

Champ: #11 Marion (19-7) def. #7 Tipton 74-69 OT

Class 2A Sectional 39 at Elwood

G1: Eastern def. Madison‐Grant 26-17

G2: Taylor def. Elwood 49-47 OT

G3: Eastern def. Alexandria 67-53

G4: Taylor def. Eastbrook 49-36

Champ: Eastern def. Taylor 53-49

Eastern (21-5) plays #2 Lapel (22-4) in Lapel Regional (game 2 at approx. 12 p.m.)

Class 1A Sectional 54 at Lafayette Central Catholic

G1: Clinton Central def. Frontier 66-55

G2: #10 Lafayette CC def. #14 Clinton Prairie 69-67

G3: Clinton Central def. Faith Christian 67-63

G4: #10 Lafayette CC def. Tri-Central 70-53

Champ: #10 Lafayette CC (16-9) def. Clinton Central 63-55