BREMEN — Little did Bremen’s basketball team know when they suited up for their game with Fairfield at the Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis last week they’d be getting a dress rehearsal for Friday’s home conference match-up with LaVille.
In hind sight, it’s hard not to see that thrilling overtime win as a harbinger of the Lions’ Northern State Conference victory over the rival Lancers.
Ethan Pike cooly converted a pair of free throws with no time left on the clock to force the extra period, and Bremen’s lineup buried 9-of-10 free throws in the final frame for a dramatic 62-55 win over visiting LaVille Friday night.
“It’s two opposite venues. You’ve got 300, 400 people in an 18,000-seat arena, and you’ve got a very good crowd here tonight. I don’t think we win this game if we don’t come back and win that game, if we don’t play in a situation like that,” said Bremen boys basketball coach Ryan Eakins. “Pike made some huge shots down there, he made some huge shots and free throws tonight, but more than anything I’m very proud of our defensive effort against some very good shooters and a team that’s very, very smart at getting the ball where it needs to go. I couldn’t say enough about how proud I am of my guys.”
Pike followed up his game-high 35 points at Banker’s Life with a game-best 25 points against LaVille, including his overtime-forcing charity tosses.
The Lions bench iced LaVille senior guard Andrew Hostetler with a timeout after he knocked down the first of two free throws with 4.8 ticks on the clock to leave Bremen within striking distance at 49-47, and Pike pushed the ball up the floor off the defensive glass, slashing in from the wing and drawing a foul at the final buzzer to give his team new life.
“When you’ve got Hostetler at the line, you don’t think he’s going to miss,” said Eakins. “We drew up a plan to run to the opposite side of the floor, but when they miss you’ve just got to go. We were going to get the ball to Ethan, and he just went and made a play. We were fortunate enough to get a foul called, and he stepped up and made two of the biggest free throws he’ll ever make.”
Jacob Box buried a long jumper on a stepback in the corner to re-knot the game up at 51-all at the 3:25 stop of overtime following a pair of freebies by LaVille high scoring point guard Blake Berger on the other end, and Pike’s pull-up jumper off the elbow in a double team at the 1:41 stop of the extra period gave the Lions their first lead in over 14 minutes.
That lead change wound up being the last of the night as Box hit 3-of-4 free throws, and Kai Slough and Don Browning each converted another two in the double bonus as Bremen held off the Lancers down the stretch for the team’s fourth straight win. All total, the Lions converted 20-of-27 freebies — 18-of-23 in the second half and overtime — on their way to the win.
“It’s hard to single guys out after a game like that,” Eakins said. “We made free throws and that was important, but there’s not one guy we can look to and say he won the game for us. It was a great team effort.”
The Lancers jumped out to a 16-8 lead in the first quarter and stretched their advantage out to 20-8 with a Jeff Haygood lay-in on a Berger assist at the 7:10 mark of the second. But Bremen ended the half on a 14-1 tear — capped off by a Slough triple from the top of the key on an inside-out pass from Pike — and the Lions took a tentative 22-21 lead into halftime.
The Lancers ended a nip-tuck third period, which saw five lead changes and two ties, on an 8-1 run sparked by Berger’s spot up 3 off the top of the arc to take back control at 39-32 headed into the fourth, but the visitors couldn’t hold on in the final 12 minutes.
“We have a ton of respect for LaVille,” Eakins said. “Obviously their coaching staff has them as prepared as any team we would play. And they are as good defensively as any team we play as well. We talked the whole night about how we are a very good basketball team. We know they’re good, but we are too, and we haven’t shown people that for 32 minutes yet this year. I harped on 32 minutes all week and then we had 36 tonight, so they had to go four extra to prove me wrong.”
LaVille was led by Berger’s 21 points with four assists in his second straight game with 20-plus points, while Nick Amor finished with a near double-double of 15 points and nine rebounds, and Hostetler scored 14 for the night as the Lancers slipped to 1-1 in the NSC and 6-3 overall with their first back-to-back losses after a 69-59 setback at NorthWood last Saturday. They’ll have a week layover before traveling to Knox for another league match-up next Friday.
Pike powered Bremen with 25 points and six rebounds and Box finished with 12 points, but the X factor proved to be junior Slough, who put up 19 points with three assists and didn’t miss a single shot from either the floor or the line in the second half to help his team rally to the win.
“Kai’s a tough kid. He’s taken some licks early on,” said Eakins. “People forget he’s never played varsity basketball before. He didn’t play all last season, he didn’t even practice because he was hurt, and he’s never played point guard in his entire life. This is the eighth game of his career, and he played like that. That’s a lot of resolve, that’s a lot of grit, that’s a lot of toughness on Kai’s part. He’s worked his rear end off, and he can knock down jump shots.”
Bremen moves to 5-3 with its fourth straight win after a rough 1-3 start and stays unbeaten in conference play at 2-0. The Lions hit the road for Bethany Christian next Monday before resuming NSC play at John Glenn next Friday night.
“LaVille is an outstanding ball club and is well-coached. This is a huge, huge win,” said Eakins. “We have to remember a bounce goes here or there differently, and we walk out of here with a two-point loss, so we can’t get too high with the win just like we can’t get too low about a loss. We’ve got Bethany Christian on Monday and a very, very good Glenn team next Friday, which is another great conference game, at their place. They’re not how their record indicates because their schedule is ridiculous.”
• BREMEN 62,
LaVILLE 55 OT
Score by quarters
LaVille: 16 21 39 49 55
Bremen: 8 22 32 49 62
LaVILLE (55): Cameron Gurtner 0, Blake Berger 21, Landon Manuel 3, Ryan Bettcher 0, Jeff Haygood 2, Andrew Hostetler 14, Alec Baker 0, Nicholas Amor 15; Totals: 17 12-17 55.
BREMEN (62): Don Browning 4, Ethan Pike 25, Jacob Box 12, Sam Lacher 0, Phoenix Ricketts 0, Kai Slough 19, Dillon Mullen 0; Totals: 18 20-27 62.
3-pointers: LaVille 4 (Hostetler 3, Berger 1), Bremen 3 (Slough 3); Rebounds: LaVille 21 (Amor 9), Bremen 28 (Pike 6); Turnovers: 12, Bremen 13; Steals: LaVille 5, Bremen 4; Assists: LaVille 9 (Berger 4), Bremen 9 (Slough 3); Fouls (fouled out): LaVille 18 (Manuel), Bremen 17 (none).
Records: LaVille 6-3 (1-1 NSC), Bremen 5-3 (2-0 NSC).
JV score: Bremen 51 (Joey Adkins 19), LaVille 47 (Isaac Eash 20)