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Kokomo extinguishes Bronchos' upset bid
March 8, 2013Lafayette Jefferson High School
For three upset-minded quarters on Friday night, Lafayette Jeff’s boys basketball team gave Kokomo everything it wanted in a Class 4A sectional semifinal at Crawley Center.
It not for the final 80 seconds of the third quarter, the Bronchos might be playing for a sectional title on their home floor this evening.
But Kokomo guards Tayler Persons and LaBradford Sebree, who burned the Bronchos all night, led a surge that lifted the Wildkats to a 65-51 victory and ended Lafayette Jeff’s season.
Persons and Sebree, who combined for 38 total points, scored all 10 points of a third quarter-ending run that turned a one-point Lafayette Jeff lead into a nine-point deficit.
“It was really fast,” said Bronchos senior forward Lucas Wallace, who collected 15 points and 13 rebounds in his final game. “We were up one at one point, and then it happened so fast. We were down 11 and I was like, ‘Wow, what happened?’ ”
Two-time defending champion Kokomo (21-2) moves on to face McCutcheon in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. championship.
Lafayette Jeff played without junior forward Tyler Buchanan, its leading scorer and rebounder, for what Bronchos coach Scott Radeker termed a “coach’s decision.” Radeker said the decision to bench Buchanan, who had just returned from injury, was made Thursday afternoon.
“We were still confident going in that we could compete and play,” Radeker said. “But it’s huge when you lose a kid like that that you’re counting on.
“One of my goals coming into Jeff was that we put kids’ character first. If they’re not getting it done around school, around the community, around the classroom, they’ll be held accountable for it. It’s my job as a coach to help these guys develop into men and learn the values to help them do that.”
The Wildkats had beaten Lafayette Jeff 45-35 during the regular season, mostly by turning turnovers and offensive rebounds into easy points. By correcting those deficiencies, the Bronchos gave themselves a chance at a head-turning upset.
Kokomo jumped out to an 11-2 lead. Jeff senior Keaton Hamilton came off the bench to spark a 10-0 run, capped by Darian Collins’ 3-pointer, that put Jeff up 12-11. While Persons and Sebree combined for 23 first-half points, the Bronchos’ half-court offensive execution helped them stay within 29-27 at halftime.
Down 36-32 midway through the third, Jeff’s Peter Ripke hit a 3, was fouled, and added the game-tying free throw. Wallace hit the first of two free throws with 2:20 left in the period, giving Jeff its final lead, 37-36.
“We were just competing better,” Wallace said when comparing Friday’s game to the first Kokomo meeting. “We took care of the ball a lot better. We had a better mindset than the first game; we weren’t mentally prepared. This game, I thought we were ready to play.”
By the time the Bronchos had time to check the scoreboard again, they were looking at a deficit. Sebree came out of a Kokomo timeout and hit a jumper, and Persons hit consecutive 3s in a 27-second span.
The 14-point run extended into the fourth quarter, with Erik Bowen’s lay-in giving Kokomo a 50-37 cushion with 5:53 left. After committing seven first-half turnovers, Lafayette Jeff equaled that number in the third quarter alone.
Kokomo led by at least eight the rest of the way.
“Really, the kids were doing a great job executing our game plan the whole time,” Radeker said. “We were hanging around, hanging around.
“We told the kids if we could get to the fourth quarter in a tight game or with the lead, anything can happen. It was still only nine (to start the fourth), but for the psyche, that’s kind of tough to take.