BB 1A FINAL: #7 Loogootee downs #6 Rockville, 55-52, for first crown
March 25, 2012Hoosier Authority
By Steve McClure
Hoosier Authority Correspondent
INDIANAPOLIS -- Humble in victory, humble in defeat.
Two small towns with two giant basketball programs, all on display March 24 at the Class A boys basketball championship at Bankers Life Fielhouse in Indianapolis.
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When the Lions and Rox play roundball, you can count on the majority of each town to bring their fans with them regardless of the distance -- lots of them.
After a rough and tumble 32 minutes, it was the blue-collar like Loogootee Lions eeking out a 55-52 victory over the blue and white clad Rox.
Asked about the physicality of the game, Lions coach Mike Galloway said, "we're used to playing in games like this. But, in that second half, Rockville really pressured us."
After the opening tip, Loogootee was the agressor which led to a 17-9 first quarter lead.
Rockville junior center Lane Mahurin was held to just four points, all at the free throw line, in the first eight minutes.
The in-your-face man-to-man defense applied by Loogootee forced Rockville into a pace it seemed uncomfortable in.
However, when Lions junior center Conner Wittmer picked up his third personal foul with 5:09 to play in the second quarter, sending him to the bench for the rest of the first half, the Rox, still were unable to capitalize.
The Rox shot a dismal 23.8 percent in the first half, hitting only 5-of-21 from the fieldwhile the Lions were good on 10-of-21, including three 3-pointers.
Trailing 23-15 at the break, Rockville fell even further behind in the third quarter.
Loogootee's lead climbed to an 11-point margin at 43-32 with 4:49 left in the final period of play. And just when you thought the Lions were ready to close the door, back came Rockville.
A flurry of up-and-down action, forced Loogootee into some uncharacteristic turnovers.
With 3:08 remaining, the Rox were within five points at 45-40 on a Jeol Wittenmyer free throw.
Mahurin got free in the middle for a short jumper and on the next Rockville possession, Gary Ulrich nailed 3-pointer and the Lions lead was down to only two points
A layup by Jordan McFall tied the game at 50 apiece.
The Lions and Rox traded baskets and the scored was knotted at 52 with 28 seconds left.
Loogootee got the biggest play of the game when they needed it most.
A floor length pass from Wittmer to Will Nonte led to a fast-break layup.
Senior Bryant Ackerman, who finished with 15 points, added one of two free throws with four seconds remaining to seal the deal.
Wittmer, who had to sit out 10 minutes because of foul trouble, still had a game-high 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Also in double-figures for the Lions with 13 points was sophomore guard Matt Mathies.
For Rockville, Mahurin and Ulrich each tallied 14 points. McFall added 12.
Loogootee, led by Ackerman's game-high 12 rebounds, won the battle-of-the-boards 30-20.
Rockville’s Wheeler named Trester Mental Attitude Award winner
Following the game, members of the IHSAA Executive Committee named Matt Wheeler of Rockville High School as the winner of the Arthur L. Trester Mental Attitude Award in Class A Boys Basketball.
Wheeler ranks seventh in his senior class of 52 students. He serves as senior class vice president, National Honor Society treasurer and is a member of the Student Council and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He’s also received Distinguished Honor Roll recognition from his school.
Besides playing four seasons of basketball, Wheeler has been a member of the golf and tennis teams for three years and ran one year of cross country. He was all-conference in tennis and was a regional qualifier.
He intends to enter the ministry and begin his studies at Johnson University.
He is the son of Ronald and Mary-Kay Wheeler of Rockville.
The award is annually presented to a senior participant in the state finals who best demonstrates mental attitude, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability and is named after the IHSAA’s first commissioner who served the Association from 1929 to 1944.
Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, the IHSAA’s corporate partner, presented a $1,000 scholarship to Rockville High School in the name of Wheeler.
Some postgame comments, courresy of ihsaa.org:
Loogootee coach Mike Wagoner
“We knew Rockville was going to make a run at us. We hit enough free throws in the end to pull it out. I had a lot of faith in our free throw shooting.”
“I knew early we could score because we’ve got good shooters. We knew they would press us. If we could get ahead of the traps, we knew we could get layups. However, we threw the ball away uncharacteristically a couple of times.”
(On winning school’s first state championship in any sport)
“I am so happy for the players. They have worked so hard. We’ve been here three other times and didn’t get the job done. We were glad to do it today.”
“We had Conner (Wittmer) in foul trouble so we decided to shorten the game a little by going into the delay. We had an 11-point lead, but Rockville hit a couple of threes to make it closer. Give them a lot of credit. They didn’t quit. Don’t be surprised if Rockville is back here next year.”
“As a player (in 1975), it was exciting to be here. As an assistant coach in 2005 it was a lot of fun. This year, we knew we had a pretty good shot at winning state.”
Loogootee junior Conner Wittmer
(On winning state)
“Just being able to win it today was not only for us, but also our school and for the whole town. Everyone who’s ever worn a Loogootee jersey, this means so much because of our tradition.”
Rockville coach Dave Mahurin
“It was certainly a much better second half than first. I’m just pleased we played and represented ourselves the best we could. We were very tentative, very nervous early in the game. I can’t ask for any more than they gave me and that was we had a chance to win the game. I’m very proud of them.”
(On defensive philosophy)
“We were trying to really, really get to their legs by pressuring them in the full court and trying to push (Loogootee’s Bryant) Ackerman left but he’s just so good. It’s easy to say it, it’s just hard to do it. Their big kid was just a handful for us inside.”
“The only thing we ever talk about being able to control is effort and we played with effort. I think we were down 11 and they had the ball and I looked up and thought ‘Hey, this may not be our day’ but these kids didn’t quit. They tied the game and had a shot late.”
“I think desperation was there for us. I think we finally quit thinking about where we were and we just played hard. It’s hard to dig yourself that big of a hole and be able to come back against that good of a program.”
Click here for the box score, courtesy of ihsaa.org.