Rebels’ upset bid falls short
Alan Stewart, Contributing Writer
On Jan. 8 in Lanesville, the host Eagles boys’ basketball team had its way with county-rival South Central in a 68-42 blowout.
Fast-forward to Friday night’s Class 1A Borden Sectional semi-final, where the two clubs met again, and it was a completely different story. The Rebels trailed by only five at halftime then clawed back from a 32-22 deficit with just more than six minutes left in the game.
South Central senior and 1,000-point scorer Lucas Stewart drained a three with :04 left to bring his team within one, 42-41. With the crowd going crazy, the inbounds pass came in to Lanesville’s Kameron Walter, who dribbled out the rest of the clock as Stewart dove for the ball in an attempt to get a steal and launch a final shot. As the horn sounded, a dejected Stewart laid face down near center court before his teammates surrounded him and helped him off the hardwood.
With a ticket to the sectional final on the line, it was the type of game that whichever team came up short would be left with what ifs and disappointment.
“We were just a little short. Lanesville is a really good team, and this was probably a game that you say that sometimes you lose games or sometimes you get beat and this was one we just got beat by a really good team,” said South Central coach Greg Robinson. “I couldn’t be prouder of my kids. We had a plan coming in, and the kids executed it perfectly and even when we got behind they stayed focused. We went from 10 points down to get back to where we got it to. I was really proud of them.”
“All of the credit to them. They had a great game plan, and their kids played extremely hard and took it to us,” Lanesville coach Mikel Miller said. “I told our kids that they don’t have anything to lose, and you can’t look at records.
“I saw on hickoryhusker.com a story about some teams that were 1-19 going into sectional and somehow found a way to win it, so you can’t take any game for granted this time of year,” he said. “You have to play the game and play to your ability. Defensively, for the most part, we were solid. We had a few breakdowns. Lucas (Stewart) is a tough matchup for anybody, and he created a lot of things for himself and for his teammates through the offense they run. We didn’t shoot the ball very well at all by any stretch of the imagination. We didn’t play very well at all and still found a way to win by a point. This time of year you want to find a way to survive and advance. I’d rather win ugly than lose pretty.”
The Eagles (16-7) took a 9-4 lead on a Jacob Wernert and-one at the 2:13 mark of the first quarter, but Stewart scored the next five straight to tie it at the first break. The Rebels set the pace at the 5:53 mark of the second on a pair of Stewart free throws, then Ty Tidstrom came off Lanesville’s bench to knot it up.
The first field goal of the second frame — an old-fashioned three by Wernert — didn’t fall through the net until there was 1:38 showing. For South Central, it was a double blow as Stewart picked up his third foul and was sent to the bench.
Christian Kiper dropped in a pair of free throws for the Rebels, which were followed by two frees by Wernert for his 11th and 12th points of the contest and a bucket by teammate Mason Miller to give the Eagles an 18-13 advantage at halftime.
Robinson said defense on Wernert was a focus in the second half.
“We had to keep a body in front and behind him in the post,” South Central’s coach said. “The only times he got buckets were when we ran at a shooter that maybe we didn’t need to run at and they found him underneath. I thought we did a better job on him in the second half.”
With his team trailing, Stewart was forced to be in action despite the three fouls.
Jonas Powers and Walter scored the first two buckets of the third before Stewart broke the ice with two frees at the 4:46 mark. Powers scored again for a 24-15 lead then Maddox Baker came through with South Central’s first field goal with 3:06 on the clock. Stewart added a nice up-and-under move, then Baker bombed a three to cut the mark to 24-22. CJ Baumgart connected from distance, and Walter picked up a goal inside to set the contest at 29-22 going to the fourth.
One minute into the final act Tidstrom hit a three for the 10-point lead, 32-22, with 6:56 showing.
With their backs against Borden’s gym walls, the Rebels had one last charge.
Stewart sank two frees, and Jack Schmelz tallied a three that was followed by a bucket by Baker. After Wernert scored his only basket of the second half, Wilson hit a deep ball that was matched at the other end by Ethan Schickel. Stewart had a steal and layup to make it 37-34 in favor of the Eagles.
Powers scored, and Miller dropped in two from the foul line, then Kiper hit one of two free throws with :50 left and the score 41-35.
Stewart stepped up with a huge three with :33 showing, then Powers hit a freebie with :12 left before Stewart’s last bomb of the contest with :04 remaining.
Stewart led all scorers with 23 points, with Baker scoring seven, Kiper adding five and Wilson and Schmelz scoring three apiece for the Rebels.
“Our plan was to keep the basketball in front of us as much as we could and make them take shots into a hand. We wanted them to beat us from the perimeter,” Robinson said. “The only thing maybe we could have done better was get some of the long rebounds, especially in the first half. For the most part, we contained their drivers. We did exactly that.
“In tournament time, shots get harder to take,” he said. “On the offensive end, we wanted to make sure we reversed the ball and we did OK. We did probably as much as we could.”
The Rebels (2-18) lose Stewart, Wilson, Bryce Dixon, Nathan Farnsley and Clay Thomas to graduation.
“Lucas, he’s one heck of a rebounder. We’ll have to have a couple of guys step up to take care of that for us. People think of him only as a scorer, but rebounding is something he did really well for us. You don’t replace 1,000-point scorers. We think we have some guys coming who will have to step up, but one guy isn’t going to do it,” Robinson said. “Wesley has been my point guard for three years, and I’ve never coached a faster one. We don’t have that kind of speed coming back. Clay, at 6-4, was our only size, and I thought he did a great job of walling up other teams’ post guys and making it hard for them to finish. We definitely don’t have any size after him. Bryce and Nathan both gave us a lot of energy off the edge and are really good kids. I’ll miss them all as people probably more than I’ll miss them as players. They are just such great kids.”
Miller said Wernert’s first-half heroics were pivotal when shots weren’t falling early.
“Tuesday, he got going early and made some baskets and hit free throws down the stretch. He kind of hit early and got us going and carried us for the most part because we weren’t getting anything offensively,” Miller said. “Jonas got us some baskets. We were scratching and clawing and doing everything we could to find an easy shot here or there.”
Powers scored nine, Tidstrom scored five, Walter and Miller both had four and Schickel and Baumgart added three each.
Lanesville was 15 of 47 from the field, 3 of 19 on threes and went 9 for 14 at the line. South Central shot 13 of 31 from the field, went 5 of 11 on triples and was 10 for 13 at the stripe. The Eagles dominated the glass, 36 to 22.
The victory gave Miller 285 wins for his career and pushed him past long-time coach Jerry Reinhardt as the program’s all-time wins leader.
“I don’t know that a coach when they are first starting out is thinking, ‘Hey, I’m going to do this.’ It’s something I’m very fortunate. It means a lot. I’ve had great kids over the years that have been a huge part of that and a great coaching staff,” Miller said. “Even though you make changes here or there and people come and go, but I’ve always had a staff that has been very supportive and understands what I’m looking for, an administration and school board that supports you and gives you that opportunity.
“Lanesville is a great community and a great place to be,” he said. “Everybody has a part in it; it’s not just me. I just happen to be the coach. Even down to the parents in getting kids to and from practice or doing meals or whatever. It’s a big accomplishment and, after the season, I may sit back and reflect on it, but right now we have to worry about tomorrow night and seeing if we can figure out a way to hit a shot or two.”
South Central 9 4 9 19 – 41
Lanesville 9 9 11 13 – 42
South Central (2-18) – Stewart 23, Baker 7, Kiper 5, Schmelz 3, Wilson 3.
Lanesville (16-7) – Wernert 14, Powers 9, Tidstrom 5, Miller 4, Walter 4, Baumgart 3, Schickel 3.
3-point goals – South Central 4 (Stewart 2, Schmelz 1, Wilson 1); Lanesville 3 (Baumgart 1, Schickel 1, Tidstrom 1).