Rebels’ rally falls short vs. No. 4 Vikings
The storybook ride of South Central’s boys basketball team came to a heartbreaking end Saturday night in the championship game of the Loogootee 1A Regional.
After spotting No. 3-ranked Barr-Reeve a 17-7 advantage in the first quarter, the fourth-ranked Rebels fought back to take a one-point lead three times in the fourth period. The last lead for South came at 51-50 with 3:13 left on senior Adam Miller’s fifth three-pointer of the contest.
From there, however, Barr-Reeve posted a 10-3 run to score the victory, 60-54.
The two lone seniors for South — Miller and Indiana All-Star candidate Craig Schoen — made their curtain call one to remember. Miller scored a career-high 15 points with the five threes while Schoen came alive in the second half to erupt for 22 points and three triples. Junior Brian Mercer scored 13 and Kevin Kendall and Aaron Vaught had two points apiece.
“I felt like in the last four minutes, if we could have got a good defensive stop with the lead, that it would have been it,” Rebels coach Greg Robinson said. “That’s the breaks. We didn’t get it done. Both teams came into the game at 22-4, and there’s a good reason for that. Both teams were good. We just came up short in the end.”
In a season where South Central scored huge wins over Corydon Central (first time in 18 years), a sectional victory (first time in 28 years), beat 4A Merrillville and Floyd Central, battled in the Super Hoops Tournament and capped a fourth-straight undefeated mark in the Southern Athletic Conference, the Rebels were used to playing big games. This was a big game.
In front of more than 4,000 fans in Jack Butcher Arena, South Central came out a tad cold offensively. Vaught, who had 21 in the morning win over Madison Shawe, opened the game and scored his lone basket 12 seconds into the game on a lob from Schoen.
Travis James knocked down a triple at the other end, which was answered by a three-ball by Schoen. The Vikings (23-4) strung together a 14-2 run in the last seven minutes of the first period to hold a 17-7 lead at the first stop.
What was Robinson thinking at that point?
“For a team that handled the basketball as well as Barr-Reeve, you didn’t want to get too far behind them. With three quarters left to play, you couldn’t go into panic mode. We thought they looked like they were getting tired early on, and we tried to get the pace going in our direction,” Robinson said. “If we could push the tempo, we thought we could get back in it. We’ve always believed we could come back from almost any deficit. Ten points wasn’t insurmountable.”
The second set was basically a basket-trading affair until the final 2:45.
That’s when Miller started an 8-2 run with his first three of the game. Jason Hawkins hit one from the wing for the Vikings just before Kendall hit a jumper and Miller canned his second trey just before the halftime buzzer. The three-pointer cut Barr-Reeve’s lead by three, 31-24.
The Rebels continued to whittle away at the deficit in the third.
After a three by Darren Wilcher, Mercer and Schoen posted a 7-0 spurt to get within three. The Vikings answered with a 5-0 run of their own on a three by Kraig Knepp and two points inside by big man Bryan Cole.
A field goal and a three-point play by Schoen and a deuce by the Vikings’ Zane Bowman set the score at 41-36 heading into the final eight minutes.
Miller sank a long-range bomb, and Schoen hit a jumper to tie it at 41-41.
Cole and Bowman dropped in three frees, which were followed by back-to-back buckets by the nimble Schoen. Then came one of the most exciting moments of the night: Bowman hit a three, followed by a Miller three, followed by a Bowman fall-away three, followed by a Miller three, putting South ahead, 51-50, with 3:13 remaining. The huge South crowd went wild.
In the final three minutes, five players scored for the balanced Barr-Reeve ball club: Cole and Matt Hart had field goals and Wilcher, Knepp and Bowman all bagged two free throws apiece.
The lone basket for South came on a three-point play by Mercer with 37 seconds left, putting the score at 56-54. That’s as close as the Rebels could come to extending their season.
“We came in with two plans on Cole,” Robinson said. “We wanted to play behind him and keep him away from the basket. He did a good job rooting in there and getting position, and he drew some fouls. I underestimated his ability to post up.
“The biggest shot was probably Bowman’s fall-away three. We were up one at the time and he nailed that three. That was a big shot.”
The Rebels were 22-49 from the field and a hot 8-16 from the three-point arc. Barr-Reeve hit 18 of 35 on field goals and were even better from long range at 8-14. The Vikings won the rebounding battle, 27-21, but committed three more turnovers, 8-11.
The story of the game was at the charity stripe, where South attempted just four free throws, hitting two, and Barr-Reeve shot 20 times, hitting 16.
Cole and Bowman led their team with 15 points apiece while Wilcher scored 10. Hawkins finished with nine and Knepp had eight as both came off the bench for their admirable performances.
South’s coach said Miller’s play in the regional final exemplified what South’s team was all about.
“We’ve had so many players step up, and he was the guy on Saturday night. You’ve got to credit him for continuing to persevere. He had the intestinal fortitude to step up and hit those big shots that we needed,” Robinson said. “All year long we had kids come in and score eight or 10 points for us off the bench, and those were all very important.”
And what about that Schoen kid, who’ll be heading to NCAA Division I David Lipscomb University next season?
“We’ve been operating under the theory to get our big guys involved in the first half and the second half was going to be Craig’s. He did a good job in the second half in getting to the basket and had probably had three or four shots that went in and rattled out. He just played super.
“We’ll definitely be a different team next year without Craig on the floor. You don’t replace an all-state guard like him with one player. We’ll need to have two or three guys take his place,” Robinson said. “With a lot of work over the summer, we could be back in the (regional) next year. Hopefully, we’ll remember the run that we made, and the way it ended, hopefully, makes them a little more hungry for next year.”
SC 67, Shawe 49
South junior Aaron Vaught scored 21 points, sophomore Brad Mercer carded 16 and Craig Schoen 14 as South rolled Madison Shawe Memorial, 67-49.
The Rebels used a 25-34 effort at the free throw line to counter a 20-50 effort from the floor to pull out the win. Shawe out-rebounded South, 36-32, but committed seven more turnovers, 18-11, including nine in the second period.
The Rebels led 10-7 at the first stop and 27-15 at the half before blowing the game open in the third and fourth periods to pull away.
South literally shot the lights out in the second half, hitting 12-25 attempts. With 51 ticks left in the blowout, the lights in Jack Butcher Arena suddenly went out as Shawe’s Andrew Gavin was shooting a three. The attempt found its mark in the dark, however the officials waved off the basket. After some safety lights came on a few minutes later, both coaches agreed to play the game in partial darkness.
Rounding out the scoring for the Rebels, Jared Wilkerson had two, Kevin Kendall had three, Brian Mercer was in foul trouble but came back to score eight and Devon Wiseman had an old-fashioned three to end the game.
Two players reached double-figures in scoring for the Hilltoppers (9-15): Kevin Schafer had 13 and Andrew Gavin notched 16.