It did not take a last-second shot or a crazy overtime finish to end the streak. Nijel Pack dribbled the ball near the midcourt line for the final 20 seconds as Lawrence Central’s fans screamed. Warren Central’s players, after 46 consecutive victories, walked toward the bench as the final seconds ticked away.
“When the final buzzer went off,” said Pack, “that’s when I felt relaxed.”
After so many comebacks, so many close calls and so many victories, Class 4A top-ranked Warren Central (Indianapolis) finally met its match on Friday night. Class 4A third-ranked Lawrence Central (Indianapolis) did it with a dominant second-half performance, rallying from an 11-point halftime deficit for a 54-44 victory.
Lawrence Central (14-3) limited the Warriors to 5-for-19 shooting in the second half, including 0-for-10 from the 3-point line. It was a stunning turn of events after the Bears looked whipped heading into the locker room for halftime.
“I used a big word at halftime,” Lawrence Central coach Al Gooden said. “‘Discombobulated.’ We were going all over the place. We weren’t running anything. Nijel settled down and got us under control. That’s what needed to happen.”
Jake LaRavia scored 16 of his game-high 19 points in the second half and had nine rebounds to lead Lawrence Central. Pack added 15 points, including 11 in the second half. D’Andre Davis had 10 points and nine rebounds. Warren Central was led by David Bell’s 10 points, all of which came in the first half. Lawrence Central outrebounded the Warriors 37 to 17.
Warren Central’s streak fell short of just Lawrence North’s 50 from 2004-06 and Bloomington South’s 49 from 2008-10. Though Warren Central coach Criss Beyers and his team never talked about the streak, there was time for a bit of reflection after it was over.
“Now it’s over,” Beyers said. “That’s what I told the guys: ‘Now, nobody can ask you about the streak. You have the third-longest winning streak in the state of Indiana. That’s something we accomplished. That’s something to be proud of. But it’s over. It’s done.’ Now we concentrate, like we did before, on one game at a time. But I don’t think it entered into anything. I think it entered into everybody else wanting to end the streak, which is fine. That’s what they should do. Lawrence Central has a great team. I’ve said before I think they are the best team in the state.”
In an odd scheduling quirk, the teams met just four days earlier at Southport in the Marion County tournament championship. Lawrence Central led until the final three minutes of that game before falling, 60-56. This time, it was the Bears who took control late.
Lawrence Central started its comeback right away at the start of the third quarter with a 7-0 run. LaRavia’s 3-pointer with a minute left in the third tied the score, 35-35, and brought Lawrence Central’s loud fan section to its feet.
“Coach definitely didn’t say it,” LaRavia said of ending Warren Central’s streak. “But it was definitely in our minds. We wanted to end the streak.”
The Bears got some help from a Warren Central team that, for once, was not able to find the next gear. Pack gave Lawrence Central the lead for good at 40-39 with 6 minutes left. LaRavia followed with two free throws and a bucket inside to push the lead to five and eventually to nine points on two free throws by Davis with 1:17 left.
Warren Central (14-1) had one final gasp after Jakobie Robinson was fouled on a 3-pointer. Robinson made all three free throws with 1:06 to play to cut Lawrence Central’s lead to 50-44. The Bears threw the ball directly to Warren Central’s Isiah Moore on the inbounds pass, but Moore’s 3-pointer was long. LaRavia went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final 54 seconds to put the game away.
“At halftime we talked about unity and playing together,” LaRavia said. “They had a couple players get in our heads. We couldn’t let that happen in the second half. We came out and played hard and played great defense. They only had 13 points in the second half.”
Warren Central’s offense bogged down after halftime, which surprised Beyers after a 31-point first half.
“We were 0-for-10 from the 3-point line (in the second half),” he said. “We quit attacking. We were settling for 3-point shots from people who are not 3-point shooters. We were outcoached, outplayed, out-everything in the second half.”
It was the second of what could be three meetings between the teams. The third could come in a few weeks in Sectional 10. Gooden was asked if he is looking forward to a potential third matchup.
“No,” Gooden said, shaking his head. “No. No. No. I don’t want to see them anymore. I’m tired of them.”