Eagles, ‘BPN’ rise to top
From the start of the fourth quarter on, a seat was easy to find on the Lanesville side of the Borden gymnasium Saturday night.
That’s because everyone was standing, even into an overtime to settle the score between Lanesville and Rock Creek Academy for the Class A Borden Sectional.
Back and forth was the theme of the overtime until the Eagles came through with a key turnover and rebound in the final minute to score the program’s fourth sectional title with a 68-65 triumph over Rock Creek.
‘It feels so amazing,’ Lanesville senior Jack Ferree said. ‘Last year, we were here in the same spot, and we lost to the state champs (Borden). Then to come back in the championship to win, it feels so amazing. As a senior, to get a sectional champion is great, but we have to prepare for next week.’
In the overtime, it was a struggle for the lead. Ferree gave the Eagles a 60-59 lead with a pair of freebies. Throughout the game, Rock Creek was a load on the glass for the Eagles. They scored twice on put-backs in the overtime, one each from 6-foot-8 Gedeon Nzombi and 6-6 Ronald Karenzi. Buckets by Lanesville’s Matthew Husband and Ryan Fulkerson helped offset points by the Lions.
To come up with the win, the Eagles knew they needed stops.
With 46 seconds left, Husband toed the charity stripe to put his team up 66-65. During a time out, Lanesville coach Mikel Miller, attempting to communicate with his team in a hostile environment, echoed ‘rebound, rebound, rebound.’
Out of the break, Fulkerson eased the coach’s desire, picking off a lob pass near the baseline.
‘All night we couldn’t rebound because they are so lengthy,’ Fulkerson said. ‘We ended up getting steals at the end to make up for it.’
Down the stretch, Lanesville netted free throws. Energetic throughout the game, Lanesville’s Joe Ferree put Lanesville ahead, 67-65, with a single free throw with 19.4 seconds on the clock.
A shot by Rock Creek’s Will Brown was off the mark on its next possession, with Husband clearing the rebound. All smiles up until he reached the free-throw line, Husband knocked down the first for a three-point lead.
‘We finished with our defense,’ Lanesville coach Mikel Miller said. ‘We had to play defense in the end to get stops.’
Although Husband’s second attempt missed the mark, Rock Creek’s final try to tie the game, a 3-point attempt by Tanner Gerth, was well off the mark.
The miss sent the Eagles flying on the center of the floor in celebration as the purple-clad fans, chanting ‘BPN’ for Big Purple Nation shouted loudly for their team.
‘My sophomore point guard ‘ Joe Ferree ‘ last year after we got beat, on the way home, the kids were down and feeling bad and Joe texts me. He said, ‘We’re going to win next year coach.’ I know he ate that every day since last year,’ Miller said. ‘That kid has really came around.’
Joe Ferree had a big night against Rock Creek, scoring 21 points, knocking down four 3-pointers.
Free-throws, particularly in the fourth quarter and during overtime, proved to be the difference. Rock Creek was 12 of 22 (7 of 15 in fourth and OT) at the line, while Lanesville was 17 of 25.
‘I felt like we shot a million free throws this week in practice,’ Joe Ferree said.
Husband scored 10 of his 20 points in the championship game at the foul line. He only missed two.
‘I knew I had to step up,’ Husband said. ‘My free-throw percentage during the season was really bad, so I knew I had to make them. Coach told me I had to be more confident, and I did.’
The sectional is the first for the Eagles since 2010. Borden has been one of the key teams to dethrone, having won four championships since 2008, including the state title a year ago.
‘It’s one of the better sectionals in the state, year in and year out,’ Miller said. ‘It’s competitive, and there are always three or four teams with a chance to win it. Coming into it, I thought we were one of four teams.’
Following the game and celebration, many of the Lanesville players gathered around the state title trophy in the foyer at Borden.
Up next for the Eagles is the Loogootee Regional, where they will take on Northeast Dubois. Borden was eliminated by Rock Creek in the semi-final.
One night prior to beating Rock Creek, Lanesville needed a huge comeback against No. 6 Christian Academy of Indiana to survive and advance.
There was a wide margin early against the Lions as well. This time, it didn’t take until the final minutes to gain an advantage.
Three-pointers by Gerth and Brown helped Rock Creek lead 10-2 early and eventually 11-4.
Cue the big run from the Eagles. Spurting on a 13-2 breakaway, including 11 unanswered, Lanesville grabbed hold of the lead. Joe Ferree had a 3-pointer, while field goals were spread among Jack Ferree, Jason Harmon and Husband.
‘It was about the same deficit,’ Husband said. ‘We didn’t get our heads down and kept fighting to get back in it. By the end of the first, we already had the lead.’
Rock Creek regrouped after trailing 17-13 after one to go blow for blow the rest of the half. Joe Ferree ignited the crowed a few times with 3-pointers, as did Tate Stilger from the right corner.
‘The shots were coming,’ Joe Ferree said. ‘When the ball was worked around, I hit one, then I hear the fans going. That pumps me up. The shots came natural; they weren’t rushed.’
His older brother, Jack, said, ‘He was on tonight’ when talking about Joe.
Stilger, a senior, had a big play to end the half, picking off an inbound pass with two seconds left to feed Fulkerson to give the Eagles a 33-30 edge.
‘Other than the deficit, it was back and forth, back and forth the whole night,’ Miller said. ‘One team would answer, but the other would come back.’
Lanesville led 38-32 early in the third quarter after Joe Ferree hit another triple. The Lions, however, didn’t go away. Brown, Karenzi and Nzombi accounted for all 14 Lions points in the third quarter to keep their team in the hunt. Two leads of one point by Rock Creek late in the third were short-lived with Jack Ferree and Husband giving the edge back to the Eagles.
Showing the way throughout the fourth quarter was Lanesville. The Eagles led 54-50 with 3:24 to play after a pair of Husband free throws, but the Lions hung around.
Only one field goal was hit in the final 2:40 of regulation between the teams. It came from Nzombi to cut Lanesville’s lead to 58-57 with 1:40 to go. Nzombi would eventually tie the score at 58 with a single free throw with 51 seconds left.
Lanesville had a shot to win, but Jack Ferree’s attempt along the baseline only drew iron, sending the contest into overtime. In the extra session, the Eagles prevailed.
‘Rock Creek is a solid team,’ Miller said. ‘They are going to really be a tough out come next year. We feel pretty fortunate because I don’t want to see the rebounding stats tonight. Bottom line is we won.’
Harmon led the Eagles on the boards with seven, while Husband had six. Nzombi had 18 boards to go with his team-best 17 points. Devin Burt, a senior, had 16 points, while Brown scored 13.
‘We had to work on blocking them out, getting a butt into them,’ Jack Ferree said. ‘They are so lengthy and athletic. We had to work real hard inside. We worked on collapsing on the inside and having the two others watch the shooters outside. It was about clogging the lane and forcing shots.’
‘There was great leadership throughout the game,’ Miller said. ‘The kids kept composure and did a good job following our game plan. It didn’t always work, but we got a couple of stops at the end.’
The players were over-joyed post-game after cutting down the nets.
‘I’m just so proud of my team,’ Husband said. ‘It feels amazing. I’ve never been here before.’
‘I knew we had it the whole time,’ Jack Ferree said. ‘It feels really great.’
Fulkerson, who finished with 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting, said the moment didn’t seem real.
The sectional was a stressful run for the staff and players. First, it was the CAI rally then the overtime thriller with Rock Creek.
‘Stressful and fun,’ Miller said. ‘Two nights of gutsy, gutsy performances … ‘
Lanesville (15-8) advances to the Loogootee Regional where the Eagles will face Northeast Dubois (11-12) Saturday at noon. In the first regional semi-final, No. 1 Barr-Reeve (23-1) will take on Trinity Lutheran (16-6) at 10:30 a.m. The championship game is set for 8 p.m.
Lanesville defeated Northeast Dubois earlier in the season in the Springs Valley Tournament, 69-51, on Dec. 27.
Rock Creek Acad. 13 17 14 14 7 ‘ 65
Lanesville 17 16 12 13 10 ‘ 68
Rock Creek Academy ‘ Nzombi 17, Burt 16, Brown 13, Karenzi 10, Hayes 5, Gerth 4.
Lanesville ‘ Jo. Ferree 21, Husband 20, Fulkerson 10, Ja. Ferree 10, Harmon 4, T. Stilger 3.
3-point goals ‘ Rock Creek Academy 3 (Brown, Hayes, Gerth); Lanesville 5 (Jo. Ferree 4, T. Stilger).