With everyone awaiting Saturday night’s varsity matchup between Loogootee and South Knox, it was the the LHS junior varsity who put the crowd at a stand-still as the Lions erased an eight-point deficit with just :38 seconds left to play. Trailing 38-30, Lucas Brittain buried a three at the top of the key to bring Loogootee to within five at 38-33. After a pair of missed FT tosses by the Spartans, Bryant Eckerle scored to make it 38-35. Moments later, an ill-advised SK turnover set up Isaac Eagle’s game tying triple from the left wing sending the contest into overtime tied at 38-38. The Lions (5-2) would go on to win in OT, capping off a 24 hour period that saw Josh Jeffers and his J.V. squad pick up a pair of back-to-back weekend victories. The only concern left would be the response from the LHS varsity boys.
Just a day removed from a disheartening defeat to Washington, many fans wondered if their beloved Lions would be left lamenting as they headed into an all-important conference matchup with South Knox. That concern was forsaken faster than a politician’s promise on election day as Loogootee (9-3, 3-0 in BCC) shot a blistering 72% from the field on 21 of 29 shooting, including 63% from downtown. From the moment the ball tipped Ryan Haywood’s club rushed out to a ten-point advantage, before closing out the first up 18-10. LHS not only took command early, but led the game wire-to-wire. The closest the Spartans would come was midway through the second stanza when senior standout, Justin Fickling scored on a rebound putback to pull his team to within five at 22-17. The Lions refused to let SK get any closer as they snagged five of the last seven points to finish the half ahead 27-19. Both Loogootee and South Knox provided the Jack Butcher Arena crowd with a high-octane third quarter which saw both squads combine for 34 points. Still, LHS outscored the visiting Spartans by two to take a commanding 45-35 lead into the final period. The Lions played a near-perfect fourth session by executing their 3-out-2-under and 2-1-2 offenses. Meanwhile, frustration mounted for the Spartans as Loogootee recorded its third, 18-point quarter on the night, leaving South Knox (4-5, 2-1 in BCC) shaking their heads as LHS handed David Burkett’s squad its worst loss of the season by a final of 63-46.
The Lions 17-point victory was impressive all its own, that is until one looks inside the numbers to see SK entered Saturday’s game allowing its opponents an average of just 39.0 points per contest. Outside of Loogootee hanging a season-high 63 points on the Spartans, the only other team to muster 50 or more points all season was Bedford North Lawrence, who defeated South Knox 57-44 back on Dec. 14.
Undoubtedly, Ryan Haywood has quickly taken a liking to playing within the friendly confines of JBA. Not only is his team a perfect 5-0 at home, but LHS has shot 53% overall from the field in those five games. More importantly, the Lions have remained robustly consistent from the free-throw line, hitting on 78 of 102 attempts for a team average of 76%.
Saturday’s victory gives LHS a 41-17 advantage in the all-time series versus South Knox, but the Spartans have won 4 of the last 7 meetings against the Lions dating back to 2013.
* Jordan Wildman (18 pts)
* Silas Bauer (12 pts, 5 rebs)
* Peyton Bledsoe (12 pts, 4 rebs)
* Landon Harder (8 pts)
* Nathaniel Hart (7 pts)
* Luke Nonte (4 pts)
* Jalen Wildman (2 pts, 4 rebs)
The Lions will aim to stay unbeaten in the Blue Chip when they travel to meet Vincennes Rivet on January 10. At the same time, Loogootee will also be looking to avenge last year’s 52-42, first-round sectional defeat at the hands of the Patriots (2-6) who enter Friday’s game with a 1-1 record in conference play.