LAKEVILLE — With less than a minute remaining in the Bi-County championship game, John Glenn’s Jake Strong received one word of instruction — go.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore went, and never really stopped, until the Falcons’ basketball team celebrated a stunning 34-31 victory over host LaVille in the 48th annual TCU Bi-County Tournament finale Saturday at LaVille’s Dale E. Cox Gymnasium.
Strong, the tourney MVP, scored the go-ahead bucket with 31 seconds to play, grabbed a crucial rebound in the waning moments, and drilled a pair of clutch free tosses with 3.5 seconds to play as the Falcons captured their first tourney title since 2007.
“I was pretty confident,” Strong said of the go-ahead basket. “I was struggling to hit shots, but I knew I had it in me. My teammates kept telling me they knew I could do it. I give a lot of credit to my teammates.
“I think we bonded well as a team this week,” he added. “Our team chemistry is great; we came together as a team.”
After LaVille senior guard Andrew Hostetler drained a trey from the right wing to hand the Lancers a 31-30 lead with 46 ticks on the clock, Strong seized the initiative. Strong took his man one-on-one, drove deep down the right side of the lane and banked in a short runner with 31 seconds left.
“We told (Strong) to go and he did,” Glenn head coach Travis Hannah said. “He’s going to be a good one.”
The Lancers missed a couple of opportunities in the ensuing trip down the floor. A Hostetler triple try kicked long and was chased down by LaVille senior forward Jeff Haygood whose off-balanced 10-foot putback caromed off the rim to Strong with 3.5 seconds left.
Following Strong’s successful one-and-one, LaVille threw deep, and after a loose-ball scramble, Glenn senior Nathan Stegemiller secured possession and the Falcons’ 14th Bi-County crown.
“This is my first one,” Hannah said of the Bi-County title. “It’s meaningful, because last night they recognized (former Glenn head coach and 10-time Bi-County champion) Gordon Mosson. He won a bunch of these, and we’re happy to bring the trophy back to John Glenn, where we think it belongs.”
Defensively, the Falcons’ sticky man-to-man defense, with an occasional 1-3-1 zone mixed in, held the Lancers to 11 of 39 overall from the field and 2 for 16 from 3-point range. On the strength of that defense, Glenn, which entered the tourney 1-8, denied LaVille its first Bi-County championship since 1974 and avenged last month’s 52-36 Northern State Conference loss to the Lancers.
“We’ve been preaching defense, and defense kept us in the game,” Hannah said. “We go stretches where our offense struggles. We’re a young team, so it takes us time to make adjustments. During those times when we’re not scoring our defense can keep us in the game.
“I’m proud of our kids,” he continued. “Over Christmas break we had a few 20-year reunion practices; those are practices they’ll talk about when they come back for their 20-year reunion. We’re getting better, but we’re not there yet when you look at our sectional.”
Sophomore guard Drew McDonald scored a team-high 10 points for the Falcons. His old-fashioned 3-point play handed Glenn its first lead of the evening — 23-20 with 7:25 left in the final frame. He also nailed a pair of 3-pointers in the first half as Glenn overcame early deficits of 9-1 and 12-4.
Stegemiller added eight points — all during the second half — including a triple from the right wing off a skip pass from McDonald to put the Falcons up 26-20 with 6:25 left in the game. Junior Austen Hayes pulled down a team-best seven rebounds and knotted the game at 20-all with a conventional 3-point play with 7.4 seconds to go in the third stanza. Freshman Alec Runyan added four rebounds for Glenn.
“I thought Drew held us in the game in the first half offensively,” Hannah said. “Alec Runyan, as a freshman, played one heckuva game. Nathan Stegemiller hit some big shots and wins his first Bi-County as a senior. I’m proud of our seniors; they get to go out on top.”
Sophomore guard Blake Berger tallied a game-high 12 points and dished out three assists for LaVille. W.B. Hawkins Award winner Nick Amor followed with 10 points.
Meanwhile, one night after dropping 24 points on Triton, Hostetler managed eight points on 2 of 13 from the field. Strong, with plenty of double-team help from his teammates, stuck to Hostetler all night and permitted the Lancers’ sniper few uncontested looks.
“(Hostetler) is a tough player,” Strong said. “I respect his game. It was fun to guard him.”
Also for LaVille, Haygood ripped down eight rebounds, swiped three steals, and blocked a pair of shots.
Glenn welcomes Knox Friday, while LaVille hosts Rochester Tuesday.
• JOHN GLENN 34, LaVILLE 31
Score by quarters
Glenn: 4 10 20 34
LaVille: 12 16 20 31
GLENN (34): Alec Runyan 2, Austen Hayes 5, Tyler Prentkowski 3, Drew McDonald 10, Jacob Strong 6, Calvin Kretchmer 0, Nathan Stegemiller 8; Totals: 12 5-6 34.
LaVILLE (31): Cameron Gurtner 0, Blake Berger 12, Landon Manuel 0, Ryan Bettcher 0, Jeff Haygood 1, Andrew Hostetler 8, Alec Baker 0, Nick Amor 10; Totals: 11 7-8 31.
3-pointers: Glenn 5 (McDonald 2, Stegemiller 2, Prentkowski), LaVille 2 (Hostetler); Turnovers: Glenn 12, LaVille 5; Rebounds: Glenn 23 (Hayes 7), LaVille 21 (Haygood 8); Assists: Glenn 8 (Strong 3), LaVille 5 (Berger 3); Steals: Glenn 1, LaVille 4 (Haygood 3); Fouls (fouled out): Glenn 11 (none), LaVille 10 (none); Records: Glenn 4-8, LaVille 9-4.