LaVille beats Winamac 73-59 to advance to regional title game

Doug Griffiths
Staff Writer

LaVille avenged an earlier season loss to Winamac and in so doing will play for a regional championship tonight against Hammond Bishop Noll.

The Lancers, who improved to 21-6 on the season and lost to the Warriors 58-46 on Jan. 6, got contributions from their whole team to beat Winamac 73-59 this afternoon in the Class 2A North Judson regional.

“The first time we played them they got a lot of easy buckets, points in the paint, just uncontested,” said LaVille head coach Michael Edison, whose earlier season loss to Winamac was his team’s lone loss to a 2A school this season. “I felt like some of the shots Winamac was shooting in the first half in the paint today we had a body on them. That really helped us set the tone at the beginning.

“I think they had an off (shooting) night. We were just blessed that it was on the night we were playing them.”

“I’m just proud of our effort,” said Winamac head coach Kyle Johnson, whose team ended the season with a 20-5 mark. “I feel terrible for the kids that I couldn’t have helped them anymore, but we’ll keep growing.

“Those guys set a great foundation for Winamac basketball.”

LaVille senior guard Blake Berger had an off shooting night, but still led all scorers with 30 points, a staggering 21 of which came in the final quarter. Berger did most of his damage at the foul line where he hit 15 freebies. He got to the charity stripe so often because of his dribble penetration forced Winamac to hack him in the lane.

“Blake stepped up big when he needed him to,” Edison said. “We want that ball in his hands as much as possible because he’s our best ball handler and he can knock in those free throws and make good decisions for us.”

“It definitely wasn’t a good shooting game for me,” said Berger, who missed his first five shots of the game before scoring his first field goal with just under four minutes left in the opening half.

“When I’m not shooting well, I always have to try and get to the basket and draw fouls or finish underneath, which is what I did when I couldn’t knock in the deep shots.”

Berger’s backcourt mate, sophomore Adam Steinke, chipped in 12 points, including six in the third quarter.

“I thought Steinke had a great game,” Johnson said. “Steinke played really well.”

So did 6-foot-5 senior Kyle Kopetski, who was the story in the first half for the Lancers. Eleven of Kopetski’s 14 points came in the opening 16 minutes.

In the final seconds of the first quarter, Kopetski hit a jumper to give his team an 11-9 lead heading into the second frame.

Kopetski’s shot seemed to ignite the Blue and White.

LaVille scored nine of the second quarter’s first 10 points to take a 20-10 lead with just over five minutes left until halftime.

The lead grew from there as the Lancers scored eight of the quarter’s final 10 points to enjoy a 32-18 cushion at the break.

The third quarter started like the second. In the quarter’s first six minutes, LaVille went on a 12-3 run to take a commanding 44-21 lead.

Winamac never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.

The Warriors spent most of the fourth quarter fouling, which led to the Lancers attempting 40 free throws in the game. LaVille outscored Winamac 25-10 at the charity stripe.

LaVille’s defensive effort was nothing short of stellar as Winamac got few open looks and when it tried to drive the lane there usually a Lancer body there to greet them. LaVille drew three charges and could’ve had a couple more.

Winamac, which was led in scoring by junior Derek Dotlich’s 16 points, hit just 7-of-20 shots from the floor in the opening half.

“Turnovers were higher today than we had all year,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if it was the (defensive) pressure or just making poor decisions, but all the credit goes to LaVille. They had a great game plan.

“We just didn’t hit shots at the right time so shot selection was a big thing.”

Now, the Lancers will face an ultra-athletic team in Bishop Noll, who is just 12-13. However, the Warriors’ record is deceiving because all but three of those losses came against 3A or 4A schools.

Noll beat Fort Wayne Canterbury 58-44 today to advance to the regional championship game.

“They are extremely quick and for the type of team they are, they’re pretty disciplined,” said Edison about Noll. “They’ll be a tough one for us.”

LaVille will be trying to capture the school’s first-ever regional boys basketball championship.

“We’ve got to come out and play just as tough in the second game, which is going to be hard because we’re going to be a little tired,” Berger said, “but I think we have what it takes.”

Follow Doug on Twitter (@PilotNewsdoug)