The high-octane Terre Haute South Braves won a physical battle with the Northview Knights in Saturday night's sectional championship game to bring home their first title since the 1996-97 season.
The Knights went toe-to-toe with the Braves for the first half, trailing just 30-24 at the halfway stop. But South turned up the defensive pressure in the second half and the Knights just couldn't find the basket in the second half of a 56-32 defeat. "I was proud of our team tonight," commented Northview head coach Mitch Lancaster. "We just went into one of our offensive droughts like early in the season."
The Knights hit just one-of-seven shots in the third period and the Braves got three early points from Anthony McNeal to open the period and then pulled the ball out and held it for two minutes at the halfcourt mark to run time off the clock. Northview allowed them to hold the ball with a 33-26 lead. "Our goal was to stay close into the fourth quarter," noted Lancaster. "So we were going to let them hold it."
However, when the Braves did get back into their offense with 3:20 left in the quarter, Cole Vicars knocked down a momentum building 3-pointer that suddenly boosted the lead to double-digits. The Knights were unable to answer and South got another basket from McNeal and Vicars drilled a 3-pointer at the third period buzzer that gave South a 41-26 lead.
"It was really just one of those nightmare quarters," commented Lancaster. "We couldn't get the shooter protected in the third."
The fourth quarter wasn't much better.
South forced five turnovers in the final period and the Knights again hit just one-of-seven shots from the field and South knocked down nine free throws in the quarter to finish off Northview and gain a regional matchup with Evansville Harrison (15-7) on Saturday at the Seymour Regional.
For the first two periods the underdog Knights were even up with South.
The Braves forced four first quarter turnovers and Vicars scored seven points in the quarter as South took an early double-digit lead. However the Knights came roaring back as Nick Wells and Heath Chamberlain dominated in the post, scoring 11 of the team's 16 points in the quarter. Chamberlain would also pull down eight rebounds before the half as Northview clawed back within one point in the first quarter and were within three for much of the second quarter. But Wells would pick up his third foul late in the quarter and Chamberlain sat with two personal fouls for part of the period.
The Knights were able to hold high-scoring Armon Bassett to just seven points through three quarters, but Vicars scored 10 in the first half and Travis Davis added six points and six boards before break. But in the second half the Knights couldn't match their inside performance in the first two periods.
"We missed layups and got fouled on some layups that weren't called," commented Lancaster. "We had trouble getting the ball to Heath (Chamberlain) and we didn't finish. We just weren't able to score and finish."
Vicars led the Braves, who defeated the Knights for the third time this season, with 16 points while the Knights got 14 points and 10 rebounds from Chamberlain. Wells contributed another eight points for the Knights who end the season at 14-10 overall. South advances to 20-5.