MIDDLE VILLAGE N.Y. – After a sluggish start, La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.) eventually played to its No. 2 Super 25 ranking, defeating Wasatch Academy (Mount Pleasant, Utah) 64-52 in the fourth quarterfinal Thursday at the DICK’S Sporting Goods High School Nationals.
- (3) Montverde Academy (Fla.) 74, (6) Shadow Mountain (Ariz.) 61
- (4) Findlay Prep (Nev.) 77 vs. (5) Oak Hill (Va.) 65
- (2) IMG Academy (Fla.), 40 vs. (7) Greensboro Day (N.C), 59
La Lumiere, the top seed in the DICK’S Nationals, was never truly threatened from the second quarter on. The Lakers did trail 11-9 after an extremely sluggish first period – in which they shot an abysmal 3-for-17 from the floor.
But La Lumiere soon got going. A Jaren Jackson 3-pointer from beyond the right elbow sparked a 17-5 Lakers run in the second quarter to put the Lakers in control. Brian Bowen’s alley-oop dunk to put the Lakers up 20-13 brought the La Lumiere cheering section to its feet.
“Anytime you get a dunk like that, it gets everybody energized,” Jackson said.
“That was a big momentum swing going into the half,” Bowen said. “That was big-time for us.”
Wasatch, the No. 16 team in the Super 25, cut the margin to six at one point in the third. But they never got any closer. A Jackson 3-point play followed by another emphatic Bowen slam helped the Lakers keep the Tigers at arm’s length the rest of the way.
It was a tight, defensive battle in which both teams struggled mightily from the floor. La Lumiere hit 34.5 percent of their shots, Wasatch just 26.9 percent.
La Lumiere coach Shane Heirman chalked up the Lakers’ rough shooting night to his team’s lengthy layoff going into Thursday’s game. Prior to Thursday, they last played on Feb. 24
“I think anytime you take a month off, rhythm, timing, things of that nature are going to be a little off. In the second half and the fourth quarter, I thought we kind of found our space and timing.”
More than offensive rhythm, La Lumiere was able to draw contact, get to the line, and take advantage – going 22-for-24 from the stripe. Bowen led the way for the top-seeded Lakers with 21 points and 9 rebounds. Jackson added 19 and 12.
La Lumiere had last season’s game against Wasatch very much on their minds. In that Jan. 8 2016 meeting, the Lakers fell to the Tigers 80-71. Heirman admitted that last season’s loss motivated his team on Thursday.
“There was definitely a redemption element to it. Coming back, having a chip on your shoulder in a payback sense.”
Equally, Wasatch was hungry for the opportunity to prove that their banner win from last season wasn’t a fluke. Head coach Curtis Condie said that he was not disappointed that his club drew such a tough opponent in the quarterfinal round of the tournament.
“This is the team we wanted,” Condie said. “We’re not afraid to play anybody.”
But 26.9 percent from the floor just isn’t good enough to get the job done against a team as good as La Lumiere.
“Twenty-six percent, that’s not normal for us,” Condie said. “But I’m going to give them credit. They did a good job defending us, and that’s why they won the game.
Emmanuel Akot led the way for Wasatch with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Josip Vrankic added 10 points and 14 boards.
All things considered, Vrankic believes his team was close to breaking through on Thursday night.
“We had a chance,” Vrankic said. “They went on a huge run. We tried our hardest. We just couldn’t find our way back. We just needed one push. One extra stop. One shot. One rebound. And we didn’t get it.