TOPEKA — Sure, getting off to a fast start is important, but once you’ve got your opponent in the rearview, it’s equally important to keep your foot on the gas.
After jumping out to a 10-0 lead in its Sectional 35 opener against Fremont, LaVille left the door open for the Eagles, as they closed out the first frame on a 10-6 run to cut the advantage to 16-10. The Lancers kept their cool, however, responding with a 12-8 second frame to grab a double-digit 28-18 cushion at the intermission, and they steadily built on the lead in the second half for an eventual 58-42 victory at the Class 2A Westview Sectional Wednesday.
The match-up was rescheduled from its original time as the late game Tuesday night when Fremont called to cancel less than two hours prior to tip-off of the opener between Bremen and the host Warriors. The Lancers advance to play Prairie Heights in the nightcap Friday following an earlier semifinal between Central Noble and two-time defending champ Westview.
“It’s always nice to get off to a good start, but better than that, it’s nice to maintain it,” said LaVille head coach Michael Edison. “We let them back in it. I’ll tell you what, they’re a real talented team… I was happy with some of the things our guys did. I didn’t feel like our defense was as sharp as it could be. We’ve got to pick it up a lot.
“We did alright. The whole name of the game is to survive and advance, and, hey, I’m happy to do that, happy to play another day. We don’t want the season to be over.”
Part of the problem early was an unorthodox Fremont defense.
The Lancers struggled against the Eagles’ triangle and two but got their their zone offense going somewhat in the second quarter. They closed out the half 5-0 with an old-fashioned 3-point play by Nick Amor and a pair of free throws by Andrew Hostetler following his tip attempt of an Amor putback try with less than a second left on the clock, giving themselves a comfortable 28-18 lead at the break.
“We’d only seen (the triangle and two defense) one other time,” said Edison. “The guys are looking at me, ‘What should we run?’ So we ran our zone offense. It’s tough to know what to run when they throw that junk defense at you. They kind of gamble and they trap here at odd places and do some things that we just don’t see a lot. It’s effective, even though we should be able to handle it a little better.”
With Fremont playing a straight-up man defense in the second half, the Lancers were much more effective on the offensive end, approaching 60 percent accuracy from the floor at 9 of 16 with a pair of third-quarter 3-pointers by Hostetler.
The Eagles whittled LaVille’s lead back down to five with a 5-0 run to start the third period, but the Lancers stretched their advantage back out to 10 with a 5-0 run of their own sparked by a Hostetler corner triple on an Amor inside-out pass at the 4:22 stop of the frame, and LaVille never led by less than double digits again.
Hostetler notched a game-high 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and near-perfect 5-of-6 shooting from the line, while Amor put up 14 points with 15 rebounds and dished out four assists going inside-out and distributing from the high post.
While Hostetler and Amor led their team, LaVille saw deep production from a number of players at Westview.
Jeff Haygood put up eight points on 4-for-4 shooting in and around the paint, including six points in the first quarter alone, while point guard Blake Berger notched seven points off the dribble, and Cam Gurtner gave the Lancers a spark off the bench with 6-of-6 free throw shooting in more than 13 minutes of floor time Wednesday to help LaVille win its fifth straight.
“Cam did a good job at the foul line for us. I was happy with some of our post players with the rebounding effort, Haygood especially,” said Edison. “Early on they were cheating out with Andrew Hostetler, and so that opened up the middle a little bit more for some of our post players.
“We want to get high percentage shots. That’s pretty broad, but we know who our 3-pointer shooters are, who’s best at driving the ball, those types of things. And we want to lower their percentage as much as possible and not bail them out, which we did sometimes.”
Fremont was led by swing man Tyler Jenkins’ all-around game of nine rebounds with 16 points — eight of which came on second-chance tries — five steals and two assists. Fellow senior Jake Bryant scored 10 points, while Jordon Schmucker and Austin Corcimiglia put up eight and six, respectively, for the Eagles, who bow out at 12-9.
The Lancers move on to play Prairie Heights Friday in a bid for the program’s first sectional championship game berth since the 1991-92 season.
“Boy, Prairie Heights is a solid team,” said Edison. “You look at their record and they’re about .500, but they’ve had some good wins, and I think they’re going to be a challenge for us. I’m more concerned with what we’re going to do to try to stop them and how we’re going to take care of the ball on the offensive end.”
• CLASS 2A SECTIONAL 35
LaVILLE 58, FREMONT 42
Score by quarters
Fremont: 10 18 34 42
LaVille: 16 28 46 58
FREMONT (42): Tyler Jenkins 16, Jake Bryant 10, Jordon Schmucker 8, Austin Corcimiglia 6, Tyler Meyers 0, Alex Beams 2, Tony LaRose 0, Logan Peel 0; Totals: 16 6-13 42
LaVILLE (58): Cam Gurtner 6, Blake Berger 7, Landon Manuel 3, Ryan Bettcher 0, Kyle Kopetski 0, Jeff Haygood 8, Andrew Hostetler 18, Alec Baker 2, Nicholas Amor 14, Alex Steinke 0, Isaac Eash 0; Totals: 15 14-19 58
3-pointers: Fremont 4 (Concimiglia 2, Bryant 2), LaVille 4 (A. Hostetler 3, Manuel); Rebounds: Fremont 20 (Jenkins 9), LaVille 34 (Amor 15); Turnovers: Fremont 13, LaVille 12; Assists: Fremont 7 (Schmucker 2, Beams 2, Jenkins 2), LaVille 10 (Amor 4); Steals: Fremont 9 (Jenkins 5), LaVille 7 (Berger 3); Fouls: Fremont 18, LaVille 13.
Records: Fremont 12-9 (final), LaVille 16-6