TOPEKA — It was a familiar foe and an all-too familiar result for Bremen at the Class 2A Westview Sectional opener.
After falling to the host Warriors in the Sectional 35 championship the previous two years and in five of their last six sectional outings, the Lions succumbed once more in Topeka Tuesday night as Westview held off the tenacious visitors down the stretch for a 71-59 victory that was closer than the final score indicated.
The repeat-champion Warriors advance to play Central Noble in the early semifinal Friday night at 6 pm. Sectional 35 action continues tonight as LaVille plays Fremont in a quarterfinal rescheduled from the nightcap Tuesday to 6 p.m. tonight.
“We focused on the defensive end all through the weekend, and we went against a team with a lot of weapons,” said Bremen head coach Ryan Eakins. “I thought our team defended really well. Obviously they had a guy in the post that we couldn’t handle, and that’s been the story for us all year long — we just haven’t had any meat down low. That was a weakness of ours, and they took full advantage of it.”
Westview was buoyed by standout play from 6’3” sophomore forward Chandler Aspy, who converted a near-perfect 12 of 13 attempts from the post to go with 11 of 19 free throws on his way to a game-high 35 points. Aspy put up 13 points in the final frame, including 11 over the game’s final 3:07 as the Warriors closed out the sectional opener on a 19-11 run to hold off the Lions after they cut the hosts’ lead to four with an 11-3 spurt capped off by Ethan Pike’s pull-up jumper from just outside the lane with 3:33 to go.
“We knew they didn’t really dig down hard on the post, so the game plan was just to post hard,” said Aspy. “My teammates did a good job of getting me the ball, and that really helped out.”
“We were trying to three-quarter them on the top side, and after they got a couple lobs over the top on us — it’s so hard playing help off these guys because you’re switching and you’re talking so much — he just started getting behind them, and the kid made some really good moves,” said Eakins of Aspy. “We knew he was going left shoulder baseline every single time, and Pike stopped it, he just shot it over him. The kid, his brother was a heck of a player and he looks like he’s going to turn into a heck of a player so I’m not looking forward to guarding him the next two years. Give credit to him, he just made plays for them.”
Bremen and Westview started out the game neck-and-neck, and the two teams were knotted at 12-12 at the first quarter break. But Westview used a 21-14 second frame to grab a seven-point lead at the half, then stretched its advantage to 12 headed into the final period with a 6-1 third quarter-closing run.
Down but not out, the Lions opened the final frame on an 11-3 run highlighted by a Joey Atkins steal and transition layup from Pike at the 5:15 stop of the stanza. Pike’s pull-up jumper from outside the lane cut Bremen’s deficit to four at 52-48 with 3:33 on the clock, and the 6’4” senior’s free throws less than half a minute later kept the Warriors’ lead at four at 54-50 with 3:01 to play.
The visitors had a chance to whittle into their deficit further when Sam Lacher forced a jump ball on the ensuing possession, but instead Kai Slough was called for an offensive foul off the ball on the other end, and Eakins was whistled for a technical foul arguing the call. Kyle Miller converted both free throws, then stretched his team’s lead out to 60-53 with a slashing layup from the wing at the 2:18 stop of the clock as Westview got the ball back on the tech call.
Jacob Box’s 3-pointer from the wing with 2:06 remaining kept the Lions within two possessions, but Westview quickly reeled off a 5-1 spurt to push the gap back to 63-54.
Pike banked in a triple from just off the top of the key to cut the deficit back to 63-57, and an Atkins tip-in of a missed Pike triple kept Westview’s lead at six with 50 seconds on the clock, but Aspy’s alleyoop lay-in on a Jordyn Bontrager lob on the Warriors’ ensuing press break pushed the lead out to 67-59, Lacher missed a pair of free throws on a second-chance opportunity on the Bremen end, and Pike fouled out and was called for a technical on a hard foul against Aspy on a breakaway with 10.6 ticks on the clock.
Aspy split his four charity tosses, and Jamar Weaver brought the score to its final margin with a pair of free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining as Atkins fouled out under the Westview basket.
“The second quarter, we got down a little bit, and a big part of that was this is the first game in a long time that I thought our shot selection was really poor,” said Eakins. “We talked all week about how they’re a good basketball team offensively but so are we, and I don’t think they would’ve been able to guard us if we would’ve been patient and gotten the reversals we needed to. When they hit a shot or two we thought we had to come down and hit a shot right away instead of working the basketball. They couldn’t guard our guys off the dribble all night, and if we could’ve just gotten another reversal or two, made them work, it would’ve been even more wide open.”
“For us not playing well on the offensive end and giving up so many paint buckets, it just goes to show the toughness our team’s had all along to bring the lead back to four,” the second-year Bremen boss continued. “Joey Atkins I thought showed a lot of toughness tonight, Don Browning has had it all season long, Jacob Box and Ethan Pike, Kai Slough, they’ve all had it all season long, and I can’t say enough about how proud I am of those guys in there.”
While Aspy accounted for nearly half of Westview’s production with 35 points, Warriors senior swing man Kyle Miller finished with 17 as the two-time defending Sectional 35 champs moved to 19-3 on the season.
“It’s pretty big,” Aspy said. “Now we’ve just got to focus on the next game. Sectional’s big, we’ve just got to keep the streak going.”
Box notched a team-high 23 points for Bremen followed by Pike’s 21 points with nine rebounds. Atkins notched eight points with eight rebounds and two assists playing in his first eligible varsity game with the Lions after transferring from Penn in his junior year.
Bremen closes the season a tick under .500 at 10-11, the Lions’ first double-digit win campaign since their 14-8 Northern State Conference-championship season in 2008-09.
The team says farewell to offensive mainstays Box and Pike as well as defensive standout Browning, Phoenix Ricketts, Dillon Mullen and first-year upperclassman Reid Zellmer.
“The level of our program has been raised so many notches this year, and much more than I could’ve ever expected,” said Eakins. “These seniors have laid the ground work for this program getting back to where it needs to be — five conference wins, double-figure wins for the first time in a long time — these guys have raised the level of play and they’ve also raised the expectations on everyone’s part. They won’t always reap the reward for it on the floor with a win, but I think if these guys continue to work as hard as they have and be as tough as they are, they’re going to reap the reward in life.”
• CLASS 2A SECTIONAL 35
WESTVIEW 71, BREMEN 59
Score by quarters:
Bremen: 12 26 37 59
Westview: 12 33 49 71
BREMEN (59): Joey Atkins 8, Don Browning 4, Ethan Pike 21, Jacob Box 23, Sam Lacher 0, Phoenix Ricketts 0, Kai Slough 3; Totals: 20 14-23 59.
WESTVIEW (71): Jordyn Bontrager 4, Jamar Weaver 7, Brody Jantzi 0, Cody Litwiller 0, Brett Yoder 0, Chase Anderson 0, Chandler Aspy 35, Nic Raber 8, Kolton Miller 0, Kyle Miller 17; Totals: 24 22-31 71.
3-pointers: Bremen 5 (Box 3, Browning, Pike), Westview 1 (Weaver); Rebounds: Bremen 34 (Pike 9, Atkins 8), Westview 25 (Raber 5); Turnovers: Bremen 8, Westview 9; Steals: Bremen 4 (Browning 2), Westview 5 (Bontrager 2); Assists: Bremen 7 (Atkins 2, Slough 2), Westview 14 (Bontrager 3); Fouls (fouled out): Bremen 24 (Pike, Atkins), Westview 19 (Bontrager).
Records: Bremen 10-11 (final), Westview 19-3.