MT. SUMMIT, Ind.
There was no doubt about it at Blue River High School on Saturday: The Union High School boys basketball fans were going to storm the court.
From the opening tip-off to the final seconds, the Rockets controlled the tempo of the IHSAA Class A Sectional 56 championship and the chants of “Rocket repeat” started with just more than a minute to play.
Union is once again Sectional 56 champion.
The Rockets welcomed Seton Catholic to its first sectional championship appearance with a 57-47 victory.
Junior Spencer Shore and senior Willie Eviston each scored 14 points, leading the Rockets to victory.
Eviston admitted that winning as a junior was special, but knowing that his career could have ended Saturday made the repeat much more important.
“It’s a little bit sweeter, because we knew it’s one and done. If we lost, our seniors are done. They were both special, but this was just a bit sweeter,” Eviston said.
When the Rockets (17-5) defeated the Cardinals in the 2012 sectional, coach Jeff Holloway pointed to the team’s strong free-throw performance.
The Rockets started 0-for-4 on Saturday, but after a small meeting finished 19-of-29.
“The funny thing is we shoot free throws every day in practice and we shoot them well. I try not to react too much when they miss the first four,” Holloway said.
For Seton, it was a different story.
The Cardinals (15-8) were 1-for-8 through three quarters and finished the night 6-for-16.
“You can’t shoot free throws like that and expect to win a ballgame,” second-year Seton coach Josh Jurgens said. “We didn’t come out mentally ready, but give all the credit to Union. Coach Holloway is a great coach and Eviston is a great player.”
The Rockets jumped ahead 13-6 after the opening frame, and Seton cut it down to three, but just once, in the second quarter.
Union pulled away to lead 23-14 at halftime, and the Cardinals again made a run in the third, but could only get within 10 twice, both times on jumpers from Adam Schroeder.
The Cardinals’ senior finished with a game-high 23 points and leaves Seton with the all-time scoring record.
“He’s given us 32 good minutes every game this year,” Jurgens said. “All the seniors have been great and they’re going to give you what they’re going to give you.”
Senior Nate Brouse scored 12 points for the Cardinals, while Dylan Reichley had a pair of steals.
Tanner Cates scored 12 points for Union, while Nick Glaser had eight to go with a team-high 10 rebounds.
Jason Bowling brought down six boards and scored four points, while Michael Netherly had five rebounds and five points.
For Jurgens, the Cardinals finished the season with a program-best 15 wins and earned their first winning season.
“I feel like you’ve got to get here and lose (the sectional final) before you can win it,” Jurgens said. “We were in the semifinal last year and lost it, and we took one more step this year and lost.
“I fully expect to be here again next year and walk away with the title. … I thought this season went really well. For a team that had never won double digits to get 15, that’s huge. It’s a building block.”