ELNORA – Barr-Reeve hit an unexpected road bump on the way to a second consecutive Graber Post Buildings Classic title at the Cougar Den on Saturday.
But in the end, the Vikings “Bullocked” their way through adversity to come out on top.
Michah Bullock scored nine of this 12 points in the second half on the way to earning his second straight GPB Most Valuable Player award as Class A No. 1 Barr-Reeve overcame a six-point halftime deficit to defeat South Knox 53-40 in the championship game.
Defending champion Barr-Reeve (7-0) was the strong favorite to repeat as champions after handing Class 3A No. 5 Brownstown Central the Braves’ first loss of season in Friday’s semifinals. But someone forgot to tell South Knox (5-2) that the Spartans weren’t supposed to be able to compete with the Vikings as coach Mark Rohrer’s team led 25-19 at halftime.
Barr-Reeve coach Bryan Hughes, whose squad easily beat South Knox twice last season, felt like his team didn’t give the much-improved Spartans they credit they deserved.
“To be quite honest, I just didn’t feel like, and it was a concern coming in, I don’t know if we gave them the respect we needed to give them after beating them twice like we did last year,” said Hughes. “I tried to warn them that they (South Knox) are much better, much improved.
“But give our guys credit. I’m really proud of them for taking a big dose of adversity and handling it, and coming out in the second half and tightening it up a little bit,” said Hughes. “I thought our second half obviously was good. We didn’t do a whole right in the first half and they did a lot right.”
Barr-Reeve took control of the game in the third quarter. A Bullock 3-pointer brought B-R to within a point at 29-28 with 4:43 left in the period, and the Vikings took their first lead of the contest less than a minute later on a basket by Logan James. Though a pair of free throws by the Spartans’ Nick Burke returned the lead to South Knox seconds later, Barr-Reeve’s Duncan Roy dialed long distance on the Vikings next possession to give B-R a 33-31 lead, and Barr-Reeve would not trail again in the contest.
Barr-Reeve turned up the heat on both ends of the court in the second half. The Vikings connected on 73 percent (11-15) of their shots after halftime and limited the Spartans, who hit on 11-19 (58 percent) of their first half attempts, to just 27 percent shooting (4-15) in the second half and forcing seven Spartan turnovers. During a span of 10:00 beginning midway through the third quarter, South Knox scored just four points, all free throws, and the Spartans were outscored 22-4. Hughes said the defensive change his team made at halftime had nothing to do with X’s and O’s.
“We just asked our guys to get tougher. I think we locked down a little bit more in the second half,” said Hughes. “They got on a little bit of a roll, a serious roll that we had a hard time handling. But it was good to see our guys come out of the locker room and change the game.”
Addison Wagler tied Bullock for game high honors with 12 points. Roy added nine markers and also pulled down 11 rebounds. James finished with six points and six rebounds. Chris Wittmer chipped in with eight points for B-R.
Chad Thompson and Burke topped South Knox with nine points each, followed by seven apiece from Andrew Scott and Colton Houchin. After the game Rohrer reflected on the week as a whole.
“I told the boys in the locker room that we would take this entire week as a positive,” said Rohrer. “There probably weren’t a lot of people who thought we were going to make it to the championship game first, then compete in the championship game.
“So for us to come out in the first half and play the way we did was a big positive. We just have to get back to the drawing board a little bit on offense,” said Rohrer. “When a team really turns up the pressure like Barr-Reeve did, how do we respond to that? We’ll keep working on that aspect of the game.”
Barr-Reeve returns to action on Thursday when the Vikings host Orleans in a game rescheduled from earlier in December.
All Tourney Team Micah Bullock - Barr-Reeve Cale Hall - Orleans Michael Bender - North Posey Cody Thompson - Southridge Chaz Schneider - Brownstown Central Alex Wittmer - North Daviess Addison Wagler - Barr-Reeve Duncan Roy - Barr-Reeve Andrew Scott - South Knox Isiah Stafford - South Knox