INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Loogootee won its first boys basketball state title in school history Saturday with a 55-52 victory over Rockville at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Class A champions stormed the court with a sigh of relief after withstanding a furious fourth-quarter rally in which the Rox outscored the Lions 17-10 in the final 3:56.
"It means everything," fourth-year Loogootee coach Mike Wagoner said. "We've been to state three times, we have runner-up mats on the wall. We just never have been able to get that one big game."
Loogootee, with a 284 enrollment, seemed to have triple that number in the stands. The group had started the party as the Lions held the biggest lead of the game (11) with 4:49 left in the fourth quarter. Loogootee established a 17-9 lead in the first quarter and had never trailed.
But the Rox had a final run in them. A Gary Ulrich 3-pointer cut the lead to 43-35. Five consecutive free throws made it a five-point game. Then the Rox press, which had yielded little results all game, suddenly had the Lions flustered.
Another Ulrich triple cut the lead to three. A Cody Jeffries basket from beyond the arc made it a two-point game. A Lane Mahurin jumper tied it at 52-52 with 28 seconds left. But the Lions finally popped the press as Conner Wittmer found a wide open Will Nonte for a layup to take a 54-52 lead that. Rockville never scored again.
"I was confident, I don't know that I was ever comfortable," Loogootee senior guard Bryant Ackerman said. "Rockville is a good team, they're in the state finals for a reason."
The finals appearance was just the second for Loogootee (2005) since the IHSAA departed from the non-class model in 1996, and its fourth overall.
The Lions shot 58.3 percent from the field in the first quarter as Wittmer scored seven points in the first eight minutes. He finished with a game-high 16 along with six assists. Rockville juniors Mahurin (19.6 points per game) and Ulrich (12.0 points per game) combined for 28 points in the end, but were a 1-for-10 in the first half.
"Our whole goal was to get it to the middle of the floor," said Wagoner, who was a member of the 1975 finals team and an assistant coach during the 2005 run. "We didn't do that a couple times and we hesitated. Once we got the ball in the middle of the floor and looked down the floor, we saw guys open."
Ackerman, who was the leading scorer throughout the season, struggled with an 3-for-11 effort, but finished with 15 points and game-highs in rebounds (12) and assists (6). Ackerman went 9-for-11 from the free-throw line, which Loogootee desperately needed.
Rockville finished the season 22-6 after it advanced to its first state final since 1918 -- its fifth overall.
"We were really, really trying to get to their legs by pressuring them in the full court," 22nd-year Rockville coach Dave Mahurin said. "It's easy to say it, but it's hard to do it. Their big kid (Wittmer) was just a handful for us inside and just so strong with the basketball."
The Class A All-Tournament team was comprised of Loogootee's Ackerman, Wittmer and Matt Mathies and Rockville's Mahurin and Ulrich. Rox forward Matt Wheeler was named the Arthur L. Trester Mental Attitude Award winner.
Nelson 1-3 0-0 3, Mathies 3-4 5-6 13, Howell 1-1 0-0 2, Matthews 1-1 0-0 2 Ackerman 3-11 9-11 15, Nonte 2-2 0-0 4, Wittmer 7-10 1-2 16. Totals 18-32 15-19 55.
Mahurin 3-12 8-10 14 Wilke 0-0 0-0 0, Wheeler 0-1 0-0 0, Jeffries 1-7 0-0 3, Ulrich 4-13 3-4 14, Wittenmyer 3-7 3-5 9, McFall 5-9 1-1 12, Wheeler 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-49 15-20 52.
Loogootee 17 6 16 16 -- 55
Rockville 9 6 15 22 -- 52
3-Point Goals_Loogootee 4-9 (Mathies 2-3, Nelson 1-2, Ackerman 0-2, Wittmer 1-2). Rockville 5-25 (Ulrich 3-12, Jeffries 1-7, McFall 1-4, Mahurin 0-2). Fouled Out_Wittenmyer, McFall. Rebounds_Loogootee 30 (Ackerman 12), Rockville 20 (Mahurin 6). Assists_Loogootee 12 (Ackerman 6), Rockville 7 (Mahurin 4). Total Fouls_Loogootee 17, Rockville 18.