By Dennis Glade
SEYMOUR — For the first time in four years, Barr-Reeve is heading back to the state championship game in Indianapolis.
The Vikings (26-1) defeated Clay City (20-7) 75-55 in Saturday's Class A Semistate Saturday afternoon at the Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium behind a balanced offensive attack led by Addison Wagler's 24 points.
Barr-Reeve entered the season as the No. 1 team in Class A and all season the Vikings had a target on their backs, but stigma never seemed to bother them. The Vikings have won 17 straight games and have an average margin of victory of 22 points per game in six tournament games, which is a higher margin than they averaged during the 21-game regular season.
"They've handled the pressure all year," said Barr-Reeve coach Bryan Hughes. "Probably better than their coach has."
The Vikings shot out of a cannon to start the game by showing zero nerves in the first semistate game for all five starters on the floor. Senior guard Micah Bullock and Wagler led all scorers with seven points each in the first quarter as Barr-Reeve ran out to a 22-4 lead through the game's first eight minutes after scoring the first eight points. Wagler made 3-of-5 from the field and 1-of-2 from the foul line and he was able to find his teammates for open looks as the Eels defense collapsed around him. All five Barr-Reeve starters scored in the first quarter.
"We thought we had an advantage in the post and we wanted to get the ball in there and hopefully get them in foul trouble, which we did," Hughes said.
In the second quarter, the Vikings offense sputtered, but they still held a 31-11 lead with 1:21 to play before halftime. Clay City was able to end the quarter on an 8-0 run thanks to back-to-back turnovers from Bullock and one 3-point play each from Evan Rogers and Easton Booe to make it a 31-19 game at halftime.
"We got rattled a little bit and had some uncharacteristic ball handling mistakes, but for the most part they got their composure back and took care of the job."
Any momentum Clay City may have had coming out of halftime was squashed by Wagler's dominance on the block. Barr-Reeve outscored Clay City 20-13 in the third quarter to take complete control of the game. Wagler had eight of the Vikings' 20 points in the quarter and went 4-for-5 from the foul line to give Barr-Reeve a 51-32 lead.
"He (Wagler) picked it up and that's what we needed," Hughes said.
The Eels, however, didn't quit. Rogers and Noah Denker combined for 16 points and four 3-pointers to help Clay City cut the Viking lead to 62-49 with five minutes to play in regulation. Barr-Reeve answered with two free throws from Chris Wittmer, a three-point play from Wagler and one free throw from Logan James to extend the lead to 68-49 with 3:20 to play. Wagler led all scorers with 24 points and the junior forward made 10-of-12 shots from the foul line. Bullock had 16 points, Duncan Roy had 14, Wittmer added 10, James had nine and Jon McMullen finished with two points.
In its fourth trip to the state championship in Indianapolis, Barr-Reeve will try to earn the school's first boys basketball state championship against Marquette Catholic Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
"It feels great," Hughes said. "This is the ultimate for a coach and I'm just really tickled for these kids. This is a great group to take back up to Indianapolis."