TERRE HAUTE -- Rarely does a matchup as hyped as the Wabash Valley Classic title game between Northview and Terre Haute South live up to its billing. But Monday's championship tilt did that and more as the Knights came back from a 12-point first half deficit to defend their title, 73-66.
While Zach Keyes and Logan Whitman had taken the main scoring load through the first three games, Josh Timm was the Knights' "ace in the hole" on Monday.
Timm rang up 28 points, 12 in a decisive fourth quarter as the Knights moved their unbeaten record to 10-0 this year.
"I'm so proud of these kids. They've worked so hard the first half of the year," commented Northview head coach Mitch Lancaster. "They're a pleasure to coach."
All season long the Knights have been a bearcat in the third quarter often finishing off their opponents in a short burst after the break. But rarely have they needed that spark as much as they did on Monday.
The Knights trailed by 10 after two periods as the Braves pounded the ball inside to 6'6 junior Jeremy Lock for 19 first half points on nine-of-11 shooting. In fact, the Braves as a team shot a blistering 75 percent (18-of-24) from the field in the first two periods. The Knights couldn't get in sync offensively in the first half, hitting just 35 percent (11-of-31). Zach Keyes who had averaged 30 points a game over the first three games of the tourney was held to three-of-13 shooting from the field and eight points before the half. The Braves' Robert Davis picked up four blocks in the first half.
But the main trouble was Lock under the basket.
The Braves were able to drive their guards to the basket, drawing a double team, and dishing to Lock for the easy basket. But the Knights made key adjustments during the half. "They don't seem to use Lock until they play us," commented Lancaster afterwards. "We tried to mix things up on (Lock) in the second half by putting (Craig) Greenwood on him and then fronting him to deny him the ball."
The strategy worked to perfection in the second half as Lock didn't even attempt a shot from the field while scoring just three points at the line.
Meanwhile the Knights started their comeback.
Three straight 3-pointers, two from Logan Whitman and one from Timm closed the gap to within 45-41 early in the third period. The Northview comeback was keyed again by a defense that forced six, third quarter turnovers and hot shooting from the outside.
The Knights drained five 3-pointers in the first 4:01 of the quarter, the fifth by Whitman, gave Northview their first tie since early in the first period, 47-47.
But the Braves weren't going away easily.
Evan Haruff hit a 3-pointer to cap the third quarter scoring, part of his 10 points, and gave South a 54-51 lead heading into the fourth period.
The Braves would move out to a 57-53 lead before Travis Hughes and Keyes knotted the score once again with buckets.
Then Timm took centerstage.
After Lock hit one-of-two freethrows to move the Braves up by a point, Timm drove to the hoop and pumpfaked in midair, drew contact, and nailed the shot to convert a three-point play that seemed to electrify him.
The shot gave Northview a 60-58 lead that was extended by Timm once more when he nailed one of his four 3-pointers in the next trip.
South's Chaun Christie answered with a hoop and Justin Shuler knocked down a 3-pointer around a Hughes' bucket to get the Braves within 65-63. But again Timm came up with the answer on a drive.
A forced jumpball gave the Knights a chance to extend the lead and Timm did just that with another hoop that moved Northview out by a 69-63 score. Lock and Chad Talpas sank a total of four freethrows to close within 69-66 with 1:09 remaining, but Hughes nailed a shot in the lane and a North turnover closed the door on a spectacular game as the Knights ran out the clock. Fittingly, Timm hit two freethrows in the final seconds, to cap a 12-point final quarter for him and send the Knights home victorious.
Afterwards, Lancaster commented on Timm's final quarter performance. "I said at halftime that someone had to step up in the second half. They were heavy on Logan (Whitman) in the first half. Josh (Timm) is a tremendous athlete. He had a great game tonight and we couldn't have done it without him."
The Knights' Logan Whitman and Zach Keyes were named to the Wabash Valley Classic All-Tournament team after the championship game Monday night.
Keyes set a new tournament scoring record with 106 points over four games, good for a 26.5 points per game average. He also raised the single-game tourney scoring mark to 34 with his performance Saturday night versus Turkey Run.
Whitman hit for 19.25 points per game including 18 3-pointers in the tourney.