One reason coach Rob Yoder wanted his Westview Warriors to win a semistate last week was so that they could genuinely celebrate.
And when they did win, beating Cass 65-58 in the Class 2A northern championship Saturday, March 22, at Huntington North, he remained true to his word in allowing some reveling.
"Right now, we're really going to enjoy it, because when you go through a season, it seems like you never enjoy anything," Yoder said just outside the locker room as players playfully whooped it up inside shortly after skillfully hooping it up outside.
BOYS BASKETBALL STATE FINALS
Saturday, March 29
(At Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Class 1A: Barr-Reeve (26-1) vs. Michigan City Marquette (19-6), 10:35 a.m.
Class 2A: Indianapolis Park Tudor (23-4) vs. Westview (23-4), approximately 12:45 p.m.
Class 3A: Greensburg (27-1) vs. Bowman Academy (22-4), 6:05 p.m.
Class 4A: Indianapolis Tech (26-2) vs. Lake Central (22-3), approximately 8:15 p.m.
ANTHONY'S TWINE 12
1. Penn (1) 23-2
2. NorthWood (2) 21-3
3. Northridge (3) 18-3
4. Westview (5) 23-4
5. SB Washington (4) 14-5
6. SB St. Joseph (6) 18-7
7. Concord (7) 15-9
8. SB Adams (8) 13-8
9. Elkhart Christian (9) 17-5
10. SB Riley (10) 14-9
11. Goshen (11) 13-10
12. Marian (12) 14-9
Last week's ranking in parentheses. Teams chosen from among the 38 making up the NLC, NIC, NSC, NECC and independents Bethany and Elkhart Christian.
"We're going to take until Monday to enjoy it," Yoder said, "and I don't know how we're going to get ready (to face Indianapolis Park Tudor in the March 29 state championship), but we are. Monday night we'll start that, but it's been a long year."
A short while earlier, still out on the court, Yoder had even politely asked several gathered media if he could wait to do all interviews until after the on-court celebration.
"We only get 20 minutes out here," Yoder said as the heartless scoreboard clock indeed counted those minutes down thanks to a 3A semistate that was about to follow.
This need-for-celebration dynamic wasn't something that hit Yoder all of a sudden, either.
Earlier in the week he'd been asked about the biggest differences between the regional, a two-rounds-in-one-day affair, and the semistate, a single-rounder. He'd just won his third regional as a head coach a few days before that, but was still seeking his first semistate.
"The biggest difference is if you win, you can actually enjoy it," Yoder speculated with a smile at the time. "Two games in a day is really tough. And then, to come back in that second game, you can't be as good as you were the first game, but you have to be solid. And you can't get too high if you win that first game. That takes a lot of good leadership, tough kids who are willing to keep fighting, and that's what we have."
Westview's first-game win in the regional at North Judson had been a monumental, two-overtime battle of attrition over No. 5-ranked Hammond Noll.
"It'll always be a fond game to remember," Yoder said later. "The toughness involved, everything, it's one of the best wins we've ever had."
Yet it was a win that couldn't be fully celebrated. It was the second second semifinal of the day, it went the two OTs, and there was the business of beating Winamac in the final a few hours later.
"For the coaches, we were eating and preparing all at once," Yoder said, "For the kids, eating and resting, and then a little prep. We only had time to put in the bare essentials."
And making time to celebrate hardly constituted a bare essential. Later, after the win over Winamac, there certainly was some euphoria, but that came blended with some relief, and came at the end of a long night, a long way from home.
That semi-sweet, but this was semistate.
Westview do-it-all guard Jordyn Bontrager not only had 18 points and a game-high nine assists in the win over Cass, but the 5-foot-10 senior even added a game-high 12 rebounds.
"Well, our big guys box out, and I just kind of go in and am the beneficiary of their hard work," Bontrager explained sheepishly.
I'ts not quite that simple.
"First off, he's got God-given talent," Yoder said of Bontrager's board work. "And second, he just wants to to get the basketball. You have to have a little bit of that in you."
Bontrager — who lived in Elkhart through sixth grade, attending Beardsley and Pinewood elementary schools — has been getting rebounds all season at an impressive clip for somebody his size, averaging 5.6 to stand tied for second on the team.
Possibly ahead for Bontrager in the state championship is at least partial time guarding 6-5 Mr. Basketball candidate Trevon Bluiett, who is bound for Xavier and averaging a state-leading 35.6 points.
"I've never met him or (played on the same court with him)," said Bontrager, who's averaging 17.2 points and 4.4 assists to pace the Warriors in each. "I hear he's a great basketball player. We'll have to all play our hardest, lay it all on the floor."
While Westview's best senior may not have the nationwide recognition of Park Tudor's best senior, Yoder appreciates him nonetheless.
"He's one of the better point guards at least in our part of Indiana," Yoder said of Bontrager. "If you add in how he defends, how he takes care of the ball, shoots it well from the line and from 3-point, and his penetration that is deceivingly fast, that's pretty good."
Judah Zickafoose's game against Cass ran the emotional gamut.
In the opening minutes, he made a steal near mid-court and went in for a thunderous dunk to put the Warriors up 6-0. That came just after he had another apparent slam opportunity on a fast break — and after he laid that first one in softly.
"The first one I just wanted two points, and the second, I saw nobody's by me, and, heck it's semistate, so why not?" Zickafoose said.
Then there was end of the third quarter, when Zickafoose went up to defend a half-court attempt by a Cass player as time expired.
He crash-landed right at mid-court and stayed down for a couple minutes tightly clutching his knee as a trainer examined him.
Zickafoose admitted later to being momentarily terrified.
"When (the Cass player) went into my knee, I hyper-extended it, but I thought it popped," Zickafoose said, "so I thought something happened a little more serious. It was scary."
Zickafoose returned in the fourth quarter, and after the game declared himself fine.
IHSAA AREA RECORDS
W-L Off Def
Penn 23-2 69.0 54.0
NorthWood 21-3 64.5 49.0
Northridge 18-3 62.4 54.4
Westview 23-4 60.6 49.2
Elkhart Christian 17-5 68.2 48.4
Concord 15-9 56.9 51.5
Marian 14-9 58.1 53.3
Fairfield 12-9 57.2 53.2
Goshen 13-10 48.8 49.4
Elkhart Memorial 8-13 55.0 59.5
Jimtown 7-14 46.2 47.4
Elkhart Central 5-16 55.9 59.0
Wawasee 4-17 45.8 54.3
Bethany Christian 3-18 44.6 60.4
IHSAA AREA SCORING LEADERS
G Pts Avg
Nate Ritchie, Northridge 21 505 24.0
Devin Cannady, Marian 23 504 21.9
Zach Zurcher, NWood 24 464 19.3
Ramon Johnson, Concord 24 455 19.0
Cory Waycaster, ECA 22 391 17.8
Jordan Geist, Penn 25 443 17.7
Jon Wilkinson, NWood 24 425 17.7
Jordyn Bontrager, Westview 27 465 17.2
Joe Line, Fairfield 21 356 17.0
Tray Qualls, Memorial 7 114 16.3
Chandler Aspy, Westview 26 411 15.8
Filip Serwatka, Concord 24 379 15.8
Ryan Kupferschmid, ECA 22 343 15.6
Dimitri Giger, Memorial 21 321 15.3
Sol Brenneman, Bethany 21 286 13.6
Alex Clark, Wawasee 21 283 13.5
Treyton Harris, Central 21 271 12.9
Nick Floyd, Jimtown 21 260 12.4
Abe Thorne, Bethany 21 259 12.3
Billy Doslak, Penn 25 304 12.2
Deric Haynes, Goshen 23 276 12.0
Pete Smith, Northridge 21 240 11.4
Will Stueve, NorthWood 24 269 11.2
Cameron Maxwell, Memorial 21 235 11.2
Brady Bechtel, Goshen 13 144 11.1
Gage Reinhard, Wawasee 21 22910.9
Austin Woolett, Goshen 23 248 10.8
Jamar Weaver, Westview 27 260 9.6
Judah Zickafoose, Westview 27 251 9.3
A.J. Gary, Memorial 21 193 9.2