By Bobby Ellis Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — LOOGOOTEE — The Loogootee Thanksgiving Classic tournament came down to a battle between two lions on Saturday in Jack Butcher Arena, as the Rock Creek Lions defeated Loogootee 51-41 in a game that was closer than the final score alluded to.
Loogootee and Rock Creek faced off in a nail-biting tournament final that showed how dangerous a young Loogootee team could be, even against a larger team. Rock Creek came into the game after an easy 41-19 win over Attica and outsized Loogootee, with over three players standing at 6-6 or taller.
Despite falling behind in the first quarter, Loogootee fought back to take the lead going into halftime.
“We do a lot of things teams our size have to do,” said Loogootee head coach Mike Wagoner. “When you’re outsized by a team like that you’ve got to do little things to get back in the game.”
Loogootee then took a comfortable lead over the other Lions thanks to multiple technical fouls committed by Rock Creek. Then, Rock Creek started making a comeback.
“It’s all about intensity for us,” said Rock Creek head coach Chris Brown. “Our whole half time speech was about playing smarter basketball and picking up our intensity defensively and that’s what it came to. We stepped up in the third and fourth quarter defensively.”
Rock Creek fought back and took the lead in fourth quarter leading 43-37 with just under four minutes left on the clock.
“We knew they’d make a run at us and we knew they were going to trap us,” said Wagoner. “They did their full-court trap and instead of us doing our compressed offense. Then, we took some quick shots and we don’t have the ability to rebound with as little as we are.”
Then Loogootee’s Hayden Bell fouled out of the game.
“That was big,” said Wagoner. “He’s our best inside player.”
Not long after Dylan Street, who had eight points for the night fouled out as well.
“(Bell) is a good physical presence for them,” said Brown. “So we could kind of pressure their younger kids when he went out of the game. Then when (Street) went out it was kind of the same thing. That was a knockout punch I think.”
Despite having the chance to bring the score within a single possession, Loogootee missed multiple free throws in the final minute of the game. Rock Creek then used its height advantage to draw fouls and close out the game.