Loogootee’s dreams of a Class A state championship faded away in a disastrous fourth quarter as Indianapolis Lutheran eliminated the Lions 67-66 in the semifinals of the Washington Semi-state on Saturday.

Leading 44-36 heading into the fourth quarter of a game fourth-ranked Loogootee (20-8) had controlled to that point, the Lions faced a different Indianapolis Lutheran (18-7) team in the final eight minutes. The eighth-ranked Saints turned up the defensive pressure in the fourth quarter, both full court and in the halfcourt, outscoring the Lions 31-22. Loogootee committed just four turnovers in the first half but turned the ball over seven times in the second half, including five miscues in the fourth quarter.

Loogootee was 13-16 from the free throw line in the final quarter, but Lutheran connected on 12-23 from the field in the final 8:00, including seeing Lutheran’s L.J. Ward score all nine of his points in the fourth quarter. Loogootee was only able to hit on 4-10 from the field in the fourth quarter.

“We played a great game until … we just couldn’t handle the pressure well enough to finish off the game,” said Loogootee coach Ryan Haywood. “We were one stop away from winning the game. We just kept losing 22 (Durray Smith, five 3-pointers), we couldn’t keep 11 (Ward) in front of us. If you just do those things one time, we get the win. But I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

“We put on our board if we turn it over 10 times or less, we win the game,” said Haywood. “We turned it over one time too many.”

Lutheran chipped away at the Lion lead throughout the fourth quarter, eventually tieing the game at 60-60 on a 3-pointer by Aidan Alialy with 1:32 to play. Loogootee’s Peyton Bledsoe, who led all scorers with 26 points, responded with what would prove to be the final 3-pointer of his record-breaking career on Loogootee’s next possession for a 63-60 Lion lead.

A free throw from Kameron Patterson cut the lead to one at 63-61 with :46 left. Bledsoe was fouled and hit both free throws to push the lead back to 65-61 and, after the Lions got the stop on the other end, Loogootee’s Isaac Eagle was fouled with :33 on the clock. Eagle missed both free throws, and Lutheran responded with a 3-pointer from with :22 remaining to cut the lead to one at 65-64.

Following a timeout, Loogootee inbounded the ball to Bledsoe, who was double-teamed and stripped of the ball by Cayden Loescher, whose layup gave Lutheran its first lead since early in the second quarter at 66-65. Bledsoe’s long trey was off on the other end and rebounded by Lutheran’s Smith with 2.8 seconds left. Smith hit the second of two free throws for a 67-65 lead.

On the inbounds play, Loogootee got the ball to Eagle near mid-court, where the senior was fouled with 1.7 seconds on the clock. Eagle hit the first free throw but missed the second, and Loogootee was unable to reel in the rebound for a second chance as the clock expired.

Thus ended a valiant effort by Haywood’s team, who led by as many as 13 points in the third quarter and by double digits with less than 5:00 to play in the game. But after Loogootee’s Leighton Jeffers scored to give the Lions a 58-48 lead near the midway point of the final quarter, Lutheran outscored the Lions 19-8 the rest of the way.

“I told our guys I leave her thinking we’re the best team in the state. We might not win the state title but I feel like we’re the best team in the state. Hats off them, they kept fighting, grinding like they should, but man, just a thing here, a thing there, we just couldn’t get it done,” said Haywood. “The seniors, we’re going to miss them. They’re tremendous kids, tremendous players. I have no doubt they’re going to continue on and do great things and be people that we can be proud of in this community.”

Jeffers joined Bledsoe in double figures with 12 points, followed by eight points each from Isaac Waggner and Parker Arvin. Eagle finished with seven points, followed by five from Drew Walker. It was the final game in a Lion uniform for seniors Bledsoe, Arvin, and Eagle.

Smith hit five 3-pointers on the way to a team high 16 points for the Saints, followed by 14 from Patterson and 11 from Loescher.

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