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Lafayette Jeff, McCutcheon seek redemption in sectional semifinals
March 8, 2013Lafayette Jefferson High School
Lafayette Jeff comes in as the underdog anxious to show how much it has improved over the past 10 weeks.
McCutcheon is out to prove it is better than it showed during a regular-season misstep.
By avenging regular-season losses to Kokomo and Logansport, respectively, the Bronchos and Mavericks would produce an all-Tippecanoe County sectional final for the first time since 2002.
It would also be the first such meeting at Crawley Center since 2001, when McCutcheon beat Lafayette Jeff for the title.
“It’s nice not to have to get on a bus two or three times a week and head over there,” Lafayette Jeff coach Scott Radeker said, referring to the previous three sectionals held at Kokomo or Logansport. “The bottom line is, when the ball’s tipped up, the team that plays the best basketball for 32 minutes is going to win. That’s what we’re trying to stress to our kids.”
Lafayette Jeff lost at Kokomo 45-35 on Dec. 15. At that point in the season, the Bronchos had not scored more than 51 points in a game, a threshold they would not surpass until Jan. 4.
Though still not a high-scoring team, Jeff has developed an effective balance led by Tyler Buchanan and Lucas Wallace.
“They’ve done a great job in a very demanding conference, and their younger guys have done a great job of progressing and getting better,” Kokomo coach Brian McCauley said. “Now they have a lot of confidence. They’re scrappy; they’re tough.”
Kokomo’s LaBradford Sebree and Tayler Persons combined for 26 points in the teams’ first game. But in Radeker’s eyes, it wasn’t defending the Wildkats that cost Jeff that night.
“Last time we gave up 18 points on turnovers and 13 points on offensive rebounds,” Radeker said. “That’s 31 of their 45 points. Those are two areas where I think we’ve really improved since. It really forced us to look at some things and work on some things.”
Ask McCutcheon’s players and coaches, and they’ll likely single out the 44-41 home loss to Logansport on Dec. 15 as their worst game of the season.
The Mavericks even held Berries leading scoring Antonio Penny to eight points. But a 35 percent field goal shooting performance yielded McCutcheon’s second-lowest scoring performance of the season.
“We were just terrible on offense last time,” McCutcheon coach Rick Peckinpaugh said after an opening-round victory over Harrison.
“Logansport does a good job defensively, and they’re a very solid team. ... Three of their kids are seniors and have been here before, and they’re rested, so it’s going to be a challenge to come back Friday night.”
That early loss might help the Mavericks focus on tonight’s game rather than look ahead to a potential final against rival Lafayette Jeff or Kokomo. McCutcheon lost to the Wildkats by one point earlier this season.
“We just need to bounce back and make a statement game,” McCutcheon junior Nate Deno said.