LOOGOOTEE — Although they almost let it slip away early and almost lost it late, the Loogootee Lions defeated the Forest Park Rangers, 34-33, at Jack Butcher Arena on Friday.
The Class A No. 1 Lions (5-0) had to gut out the win from its senior leader Conner Wittmer. With about 10 seconds left, Loogootee found the 6-6 center with a double team down in the post. He muscled through the Rangers for the game-winning shot with 6.9 seconds left.
Forest Park (1-2) had a chance to win at the buzzer but senior Drew Messmer’s shot was blocked. Senior Cam Wagler grabs the loose ball and is fouled to clinch the win.
While the win was something the Lions wanted to stay on top of the Class A rankings, it was not the way coach Mike Wagoner had seen in the first four games.
“We shot well. We didn’t have any turnovers and we took care of the basketball,” Wagoner said. “We didn’t do that tonight. We didn’t shoot well, we didn’t run our offense and we didn’t take care of the basketball.
“Those three things will add up to a loss sometimes but tonight we found a way to win.”
In fact, the Lions looked not like themselves early in the contest. From the first quarter, Loogootee had trouble with Forest Park’s press and physical defense, causing uncharacteristic turnovers and miscues that kept the young Rangers close. At the 2:09 mark in the second, Wagoner had to call a timeout, the Lions were down 14-9.
Wagoner told his team “to take care of the basketball.”
“We were making some stupid passes, some dumb decisions,” Wagoner said. “We make a great defensive stand and one of our forwards goes down the floor and instead of getting it to a guard, he loses it.”