Crunch-time Eagles close out victory
A whirlwind of emotions circled the Lanesville boys’ basketball team Friday night.
While there may have been some anxious moments in the stands of the James Matthews Gymnasium, Lanesville never once trailed versus Christian Academy of Indiana in the Class 1A New Washington Sectional semi-final.
Both ranked No. 12 in the final 1A poll, the match-up figured to be a highlight of the six-team tournament. It also featured two of the sectional’s top players in Lanesville’s Joe Ferree and CAI’s Nic Reed, both of whom average more than 20 points per contest.
In the final five minutes, CAI rallied from eight down to come within one point on the scoreboard with 1:37 to play. The Warriors had a chance to take the lead on one possession, but the Eagles came up with a much-needed stop.
Free throws became critical for Lanesville. They certainly showed no anxiety or nerves at the stripe. Joe Ferree swished all eight attempts, while Luke Ferguson made both of his in the final 52 seconds to lock up a 56-52 victory.
The win over the Warriors avenged a 63-48 loss back on Jan. 15. On Friday night, Ferree finished with 32 points, going 13 of 14 at the free-throw line.
‘I was happy we had the ball late,’ Ferree said. ‘I knew if I had the ball and got fouled, I would make the free throws, at least that was what I was telling myself. I was on my free-throw game.’
CAI came within one point, 41-40, after a Matt Hamby 3-pointer with 5:40 to play.
Handling the ball and splitting numerous traps, Ferree went to the line to make a pair of free throws. On the Eagles’ next possession, Ferree drove and dished to Ferguson for an easy two.
Lanesville showed some toughness on the boards as well. Although Riley Cook missed the front end of a one-and-one situation, the sophomore ran down an offensive board after Greg Daly tipped the ball away from Reed. Cook had two offensive boards on the trip.
Elijah Wilkin then became the beneficiary of a Ferree drive. A nifty behind-the-back pass found Wilkin under the hoop, but he was fouled on his attempt. Similar to Cook, Wilkin made his first free throw but missed the second. On the miss, Wilkin ran down the loose rebound to throw it off a CAI player before falling out of bounds.
The extra possession resulted in an out-of-bounds play from Ferree to Wilkin underneath for a 48-40 Lanesville lead.
‘Joe works really hard,’ Lanesville coach Mikel Miller said. ‘He created a lot of shots for other guys. He had 32 points. It’s nice to have a player like that, but, late in the game, he dished to Luke for a layup and dished one to Elijah for a layup. He does a real good job involving his teammates. Joe is about winning.’
‘Most teams, when I drive, they slide over looking to take that charge,’ Ferree said. ‘Coach harps on me to look for a 10-foot jumper, but, in that situation, I’d rather dish than shoot a jumper. Thankfully, my guys rotated well. Elijah, Luke (Ferguson) and (Luke) Beach got in the right spots.’
Up eight, Lanesville took a hit when Daly suffered a minor injury that halted play with 2:16 to go. He would later return, but it was after CAI made a serious run.
Williams scored four straight points, the latter off a Reed steal. With 1:37 on the clock, Riley Linnehan buried a 3-pointer, dwindling Lanesville’s lead to one, 48-47.
A CAI blocked shot led to a chance for the Warriors, but they misfired. Ferree then went to work at the line. After two freebies, Reed scored on a put-back. The Warriors, however, wouldn’t score again.
Ferree put Lanesville up three, 52-49, but, when Reed missed a long triple, Ferguson fought off nagging Warriors for the defensive rebound. His journey to the charity stripe was arm and arm with senior teammate Ferree.
‘He talked me through it,’ Ferguson said. ‘He said three deep breaths, knock them down, we win the game and we go home. It pumped me up.’
The advice worked as both chances fell through the iron, locking up the win.
Ferree said there was no worries when Daly temporarily left and the Warriors rallied.
‘I just pulled the guys in when Greg went down and said that we were up seven with 2:16 left; that’s where we want to be,’ Ferree said. ‘Then it was bam, bam. After they made the run, I wanted the ball in my hands to get to the free-throw line. Then, Luke Ferguson is an outstanding, clutch free-throw shooter, and he knocked them down, too.’
Miller said he assured his players Daly was OK after tending to the junior on the floor. Other than staying calm, Miller laid out the game plan.
‘Once we got the ball, take care of it,’ he said. ‘We needed to keep the ball moving and get it in the right hands, then execute at the foul line.’
During the course of the first three quarters, Lanesville gradually pulled away.
Ferree opened the contest with a 3-pointer, then drives by Cook and Ferree led to free-throw opportunities they made.
Hamby knotted the game at 11 for CAI, but a Cook bucket gave Lanesville the lead for good.
Coming out of the second quarter on fire, Ferree scored six straight then used a Wilkin steal to find a streaking Cook for two points and a 22-11 lead.
CAI cut the margin to six, 27-21, at the half, thanks to 3-pointers from Linnehan and Noah Williams.
Lanesville’s biggest lead came at 35-22 when Ferree and Wilkin combined for eight Eagles’ points.
Reed, who was held quiet for much of the night, started rolling later in the third quarter, scoring nine of his team-high 17 points the rest of the way.
Ferguson said keeping Reed off the block for second chances was key.
‘Coach got on us about Reed getting inside for offensive boards for easy put-backs,’ the senior said. ‘We refocused late on blocking Reed out, and that’s what we did.’
Containing Reed fell on the shoulders of Daly. Although he didn’t score on the offensive end, the 5-foot-10 Daly didn’t back down from the 6-5 Reed.
‘(Daly) had the toughest match-up on the night facing Reed,’ Miller said. ‘I thought he did well. Nic is a really, really good player. I thought we made him take a few tough shots tonight. We didn’t play perfect but well enough to win. Reed had 17 but still eight or nine under his average.’
Ferree may have scored more than half of Lanesville’s points, but he wasted no time cheering Daly’s work.
‘He plays his role so good on defense,’ Ferree said. ‘After the game, I gave Greg a big hug. With Reed, you can’t hold him to zero, but Greg was on him all night. I think he wore (Reed) down some. Our week of practice was all about Reed.’
Wilkin finished his night with 10 points, while Cook scored six.
Reed was joined in the CAI scoring column by Williams (17 points), Hamby (eight) and Linnehan (seven).
Lanesville advanced to face Rock Creek Academy in the sectional championship.
Lanesville 14 13 8 21 ‘ 56
Christian Academy of Ind.11 10 8 23 ‘ 52
Lanesville (18-6) ‘ Ferree 32, Wilkin 10, Cook 6, Ferguson 4, Beach 2, Wernert 2.
Christian Academy of Indiana (15-9) ‘ Reed 17, Williams 14, Hamby 8, Linnehan 7, Fitzgibbon 4, Cook 2.
3-point goals ‘ Lanesville 2 (Ferree 2); Christian Academy of Indiana 6 (Williams 2, Hamby 2, Linnehan 2).