Eagles take flight for sectional title
Alan Stewart, Contributing Writer
Standing at the locker room door and holding it open for each member of his basketball team as they exited — with the newly-earned sectional trophy and net at his feet — Lanesville head coach Mikel Miller said he had no plans for the Eagles to be the next chapter of Christian Academy of Indiana’s Cinderella story in the Class 1A Borden Sectional Final.
The Warriors lost nine of the previous 10 games coming into the tournament, before rocking Rock Creek Community Academy by double digits in the tourney opener and rallying late to knock off the hosts in Friday’s semi-final to set up a third-straight matchup with Lanesville for the sectional crown.
For Saturday’s tilt, Lanesville, which never trailed, was in control and took a 14-point lead with 4:22 left after Jacob Wernert sank two free throws.
Then, the Warriors woke up.
A three-point barrage by Brady Dunn and shots by Caleb Roy helped cut the deficit to single digits, 51-44, with 2:14 left, and it appeared that for the second consecutive night that CAI was going to slice another team off at the ankles.
The Eagles, however, would have none of it.
Color this one purple for the second time in three years and sixth time overall, 61-49.
Mason Miller poured in 19 points, including 12 in the second half, to lead all scorers in the affair, while Wernert came through with 13 points. Kameron Walter came off the bench for nine points with a slew of rebounds, and Jonas Powers and Ashton Smith chipped in eight apiece. Rounding out the scoring for the winners, who avenged a two-point loss to CAI in last year’s sectional final, were Ethan Schickel (four points) and Ty Tidstrom (two points).
“Somebody came up and said congratulations on (career win) No. 285 last night, and I told him that No. 286 was better. It’s a heck of a lot better because this is all about the team,” Miller said, referring to becoming the program’s all-time leader in wins the previous night against South Central, moving past former coach Jerry Reinhardt.
“There were some times where we weren’t as patient on offense but, especially early defensively, we were locked in and really engaged. We held (CAI) to three points in the first quarter and 10 at halftime, but at halftime we talked about not letting up because we watched them be down 14 points and coming back and beating Borden in the end,” he said. “We said to keep the foot on the pedal and keep going. We knew it was a game of runs, and they made one there late and we called a timeout just to remind them to be patient on offense and to not get too complacent. We hit more than we missed from the line, but, overall, the guys followed the game plan tonight maybe a little better than we did Tuesday and last night.”
The championship started as a rock fight, with no points scored through the first three minutes of battle.
In what would later become a theme for Lanesville — the offensive put-back — Wernert drew first blood at the 4:54 mark with a rebound tip-in, with Myles Morgan scoring his team’s only field goal in the opening period with 4:37 left. Miller sandwiched a deuce and a triple around a free throw by Dunn, then Smith connected from long range and Wernert scored inside for a 14-3 lead at the first break.
CAI (9-17) had another long drought in the second quarter, which started with a triple by Doss with 7:17 showing and not ending until Dunn came through with a bucket with 13 seconds left. Along the way, Walter scored six points with a couple of put-backs, Schickel had a put-back and Powers sank a two as the Eagles extended their lead to 24-10.
To that point, Lanesville was 11 of 22 from the floor while holding CAI to a frigid 3 of 21, including 1 of 11 on threes.
The two clubs maintained their distance to start the second half, with Nathan Whitten hitting a three at the buzzer for the Warriors (who shot 10 from long range and hit just two) to make it 37-24 heading to the fourth.
Wernert, Powers and Miller got to work and helped cue the call to Franklin Township’s fire trucks to head to Exit 113 before CAI’s shooters finally dialed in and threatened the victory. Miller elected to let his team play through the threat.
“We had at least four seniors on the floor. They knew what was going on, and sometimes you can stop some offensive momentum by calling a timeout but you can also stop some defensive momentum as well, so we let them try to play through that, and I think it helped us. (CAI) hit their shots, and then we locked them up again,” Miller said. “We felt like we had an advantage with Kameron and Jacob down there, and Kameron did an outstanding job inside and Jacob had a tremendous, tremendous tournament. Great games all three games for him; scoring, rebounding and defending. Just a great team effort all around, really.”
Lanesville (17-7) was a sizzling 23 of 39 (59%) from the floor and 2 of 5 (40%) on threes while holding CAI to 16 of 52 (31%) overall and 7 of 30 (23%) from the land of three. Lanesville went 13 for 20 at the line, including 10 of 15 in the fourth quarter; CAI was 10 of 16 at the stripe. The Warriors won the battle of the boards, 33 to 29, with turnovers being nearly awash at 14 for Lanesville and 16 for CAI.
Members of the all-sectional team were announced as follows: Matthew Arthur (New Washington), Kasym Nash (Borden) Jonathon Boggs (Rock Creek), Lucas Stewart (South Central), Brady Dunn (CAI), Caleb Doss (CAI), Jacob Wernert (Lanesville), Jonas Powers (Lanesville) and Mason Miller (Lanesville).
CAI 3 7 14 25 – 49
Lanesville 14 10 13 24 – 61
CAI (9-17) – Dunn 16, C. Doss 14, Roy 10, Whitten 5, N. Doss 2, Morgan 2.
Lanesville (17-7) – Mas. Miller 19, Wernert 13, Powers 8, A. Smith 8, Walter 7, Schickel 4, Tidstrom 2.
3-point goals – CAI (C. Doss 3, Dunn 3, Whitten 1); Lanesville 2 (Mas. Miller 1, Smith 1).