(INDIANAPOLIS) - The Loogootee Lions come out on top in the first all-Wabash Valley state championship game. The win gives Coach Mike Wagoner and the high school their first-ever state championship.
The Lions grabbed the lead early and held the advantage until the final minute before holding off a Rockville rally to pull out a 55-52 victory.
Sophomore Matt Mathies hit four big free throws down the stretch, and senior Bryant Ackerman added one with :04.3 on the clock before pulling down a rebound just before the buzzer to secure Loogootee's first state title in any sport.
Sophomore Matt Mathies hit four big free throws down the stretch, and senior Bryant Ackerman added one with :04.3 on the clock before pulling down a rebound just before the buzzer to secure Loogootee's first state title in any sport. Ackerman finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
If there were any jitters early on, they certainly weren't evident on the Loogootee side.
After missing their first shot, the Lions proceeded to hit seven of their next eight to open up an eight-point advantage.
Junior center Conner Wittmer knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing to open the scoring, and Ackerman followed with a drive down the lane that sparked a 10-3 Loogootee run. Wittmer added another bucket down low before Colin Nelson and Mathies each drained a 3-pointer that helped the Lions take a 17-9 edge to the first break.
The Lions hit 7 of 11 shots in the period, while the Rox made just 2 of 11, while converting all five of their free throw attempts.
Wittmer used a power move in the lane to push the lead to 10 at the outset of the second quarter, but the Loogootee big man picked up his third foul moments later and spent the next four minutes on the bench before returning for the final 1:11.
Ackerman drove the lane and tossed in a five-foot jumper to give the Lions a 10-point lead late in the period before the Rox turned a Loogootee turnover into a layup that made it 23-15 at the half.
The Lions, who had just three turnovers in their semistate win over Edinburgh a week ago, had six costly miscues in the second quarter Saturday that prevented them from extending their lead.
Wittmer dominated early in the second half, scoring six straight points for the Lions, who once again built a 10-point advantage before their big man picked up his fourth foul at the 4:19 mark.
Ackerman shot the Lions' first two free throws of the contest at the 3:08 mark of the third quarter to push the lead back to nine, 31-23, and Loogootee withstood a pair of Rockville runs to take a 39-30 lead into the final frame after Mathies hit a big 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
A pair of free throws by Ackerman gave the Lions their largest lead of the game, 43-32, with 4:49 left to play. But after Rockville big man Lane Mahurin made three trips to the line (making 4 of 6), junior Gary Ulrich hit a 3-pointer that got the Rox back within three at the 2:01 mark.
Mathies calmly hit two free throws that pushed the lead back to five before Cody Jeffries knocked down another trey to make it a two-point game with 1:25 on the clock.
Jordan McFall tied the game with :50 to play, but two more free throws by Mathies helped keep the Rox at bay.
Mahurin tied the game once more with :25 left, but Wittmer found Will Nonte alone under the basket with 15 ticks left and Ackerman added the final touches by hitting one of two free throws before the Rox last-second attempt came up short.
The Lions, who finished with a 22-4 record, shot 72 percent from the field in the second half and better than 56 percent for the game to secure the title.
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