NORTH JUDSON — A week after it ended a 27-year sectional championship drought, LaVille entered the Class 2A North Judson Regional with the hope of bringing home its first-ever regional championship trophy. The Lancers kept that hope alive for most of four quarters, but ultimately fell a play or two short.
Bowman Academy’s Justin King and Davon Dillard cooly converted a pair of one-and-ones in the game’s final stretch, and LaVille couldn’t find the big bucket it needed as the Eagles held off the Lancers, 65-58 in a nip-tuck Judson Regional semifinal Saturday morning.
Bowman went on to hand Fort Wayne Bishop Luers an 82-72 defeat in the championship game for a repeat regional title Saturday night.
“They did battle, just like I’d expect. I wouldn’t expect anything less from my guys; that’s just what they did all year long,” said a teary LaVille head coach Michael Edison. “I would take my guys over any guys in the state, and whoever wins the state championship, I’ll take my guys over those guys any day… Really it boiled down to just a key possession or two, and we’re right there with probably the most talented team in 2A.”
LaVille kept it close throughout the game but led just twice briefly in the contest. Bowman was never quite able to stretch its lead out to double figures against the tenacious Lancers, however, and the challengers trailed by just three after a drop-step lay-in from senior forward Nick Amor on a Blake Berger assist cut the Eagles’ lead to 59-56 with 1.28 on the game clock.
But following a Bowman turnover, DeShawn Franklin grabbed a big defensive rebound back under the Lancers basket, then called a timeout to avoid another turnover on the floor, and King knocked down a pair of freebies as Amor was forced to foul with 34 ticks remaining to stretch the advantage out to 61-56.
A Berger attempt from deep caromed off the rim on the other end, and Davon Dillard buried two more freebies in the bonus when Cam Gurtner fouled him to stop the clock with 11.7 seconds remaining in the game.
Berger gave the Lancers a little more life with a floater in the lane with 5.6 to go to bring the score to 58-63, but Arthur Haggard brought the score to its final margin with two charity tosses in the double bonus with 3.1 seconds on the clock, and Bowman ended LaVille’s dream run.
“LaVille played one hell of a game and came after us,” said Bowman head coach Marvin Rea. “Like I told my guys, we just need to win games, we don’t need to blow people out. We need to make sure at the end of the day that we’re doing the things — hitting free throws, playing through adversity, we can’t worry about what the other team does, we can’t worry about calls — we just have to continue to stay focused on what we do and play together.”
“We weren’t coming here just happy to be here. I can throw all the quotes out there I want, but we were coming here to win,” Edison said. “Our students, our staff believed that, they were just great, and our guys believed that. We don’t care if we’re playing the best 4A team in the state, the best 2A, 1A, it doesn’t matter. We weren’t just happy to be here, we were here to compete and to win. We had our minds made up, and that’s what we came here to do.”
LaVille got big offensive production from Andrew Hostetler and Amor, who finished with 22 and 21 points, respectively, and Berger notched nine, but the Lancers couldn’t match a young but talented Bowman squad’s offensive depth as Haggard scored a team-leading 20, King and Antonio Pipkin each put up 12, and eight different Eagles found their way into the scoring column in the win.
“We don’t really have one go-to guy, and we don’t want one go-to guy. We talk about it all the time — the only stat that matters to us right now is a win,” said Rea.
“We pride ourselves on playing the entire team and getting after you. Those guys (Amor and Hostetler) were knocking them down. I think towards the fourth quarter their legs got a little tired. They had some open looks, and I was thankful they didn’t go in.”
“(Amor) and (Hostetler) kind of set the tone for us at practice and not getting outworked by anybody,” said Edison. “You see this, this is the culmination of four years for those guys that I’ve been a part of, actually a little bit longer. You just see this on game day, but I’ve seen them in the summer, I’ve seen their commitment to excellence in just everything they do. There’s a reason those two are graduating number one and two in their class.”
Saturday morning’s loss ended a seven-game win streak by the Lancers and left the program one win short of its winningest season in 1984-85, a 19-6 campaign under Larry Radecki.
It also closed out a spectacular run in Edison’s fifth year at the helm, and the team will now have to bid goodbye to the quartet of seniors that were largely responsible for one of the program’s most memorable seasons in Amor and Hostetler, as well as fellow starters Landon Manuel and Jeff Haygood.
“They are just an unbelievable group of guys. I haven’t been coaching as long as my dad, but he would agree, you don’t get a lot of teams with the chemistry or specialness like this,” Edison said. “Coaches will say that all the time — ‘This is sure a special group’ — and every group is unique and different, but I could coach another 30 years and not get another group like this with four seniors at such a high level in so many different areas besides basketball. The leadership qualities, the unselfishness, just excellent students, and I have the parents to thank for a lot of that. Their parents just raised them the right way, I get the easy job.”
• BOWMAN ACADEMY 65,
At Class 2A
North Judson Regional
LaVille: 16 30 48 58
Bowman: 16 34 53 65
LaVILLE (58): Cam Gurtner 4, Blake Berger 9, Landon Manuel 0, Ryan Bettcher 0, Jeff Haygood 2, Andrew Hostetler 22, Alec Baker 0, Nicholas Amor 21; Totals: 19 13-15 58.
BOWMAN ACADEMY (65): Arthur Haggard 20, Darrion Riddle 5, Antonio Pipkin 12, Justin King 12, Davon Dillard 6, DeShawn Franklin 2, Linden Jackson 3, Anthony Cole 5; Totals: 24 12-17 65.
3-pointers: Bowman 5 (Haggard 4, Jackson), LaVille 7 (Hostetler 6, Berger); Rebounds: Bowman 31 (King 6), LaVille 21 (Amor 6); Turnovers: LaVille 21, Bowman 16; Steals: Bowman 16 (Haggard 5), LaVille 8 (Gurtner 3); Assists: Bowman 11 (Jackson 5); LaVille 12 (Berger 3, Gurtner 3); Fouls: Bowman 18, LaVille 13.
Records: Bowman 15-9, LaVille 18-7 (final).