MIDDLE VILLAGE, N.Y. — For a freshman who just outlasted the three-time defending champions, La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) point guard Tyger Campbell was stoic when asked to describe what the ride has been like through the DICK’S Sporting Goods High Schools Nationals.
“It’s great. I’m really glad I got to do it with this group of guys,” he said, following a 55-47 victory against top-seeded Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) Friday afternoon. “I’m just focused on winning (Saturday).”
Campbell did not allow much emotion to show during his postgame news conference, but when he looked over at the television and saw his school’s name occupy the first of two spots in Saturday’s noon final at Madison Square Garden, he couldn’t help but smile.
“It kind of just hit me, just then,” he said, smirking. “This is big time.”
Junior teammate Brian Bowen had no trouble letting out his emotions.
The 6-foot-7 guard slammed the game ball so hard into the ground after the final buzzer sounded that it came within inches of touching the ceiling in the Father Savage Gym at Christ The King High School.
“We’re not done here. We’ve got one more game,” he said. “This the biggest game of pretty much all of our lives.”
This is La Lumiere’s third trip to the DICK’S, but its first time beyond the quarterfinals.
Bowen exploded in the fourth quarter, tallying seven points, five rebounds and three assists with no turnovers to spark the Lakers’ run to end the game. Bowen finished with a game-high 16 points to go with nine rebounds.
Montverde Academy (26-2), ranked No. 2 in the Super 25 poll, might have been the heavy favorite on paper against the No. 11-ranked Lakers, but La Lumiere never saw it that way. Coach Shane Heirman didn’t want his team doing so, either.
“We’re not an underdog,” Heirman said. “We’re way too talented, way too tough, and have been through too much to be an underdog. We can play with anybody on any stage, any night.”
The Lakers (27-3) will face Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) for the DICK’s Nationals title.
Montverde Academy took 30 more shots than La Lumiere, grabbed 27 offensive rebounds and forced 17 turnovers, yet still found itself on the losing end. Eagles head coach Kevin Boyle estimated that a team would have a “half of one percent” chance to lose the game with those numbers.
Despite the plethora of opportunities Montverde Academy created for itself, it rarely took advantage. The Eagles shot 18-for-70 from the field, making just over a quarter of their shots, and the percentage was only that high thanks to sophomore sensation Silvio DeSousa, who was 7-for-10 shooting.
DeSousa, ranked No. 2 in the ESPN 25 for his class, scored 15 points off the bench to keep Montverde Academy afloat for most of the game.
Boyle was hit with a technical foul with five minutes left after arguing a non-foul call against one of his players. La Lumiere, which led by one at the time of the call, responded with an 11-0 run — starting with the two successful technical free throws.
“It didn’t help, obviously,” Boyle said. “We were starting to get behind a little bit, so I thought it was starting to go already.”
Heirman said he was most proud of his team’s resilience Friday.
“It’s a game of runs, to an extent, and you took a punch, but you get back up and you keep fighting,” he said. “We’re right there with the best of them, and we kind of have a ‘refuse to lose’ attitude right now.”