MISHAWAKA — That which was never easy still ultimately wound up free.
The Penn Kingsmen earned a share of the Northern Indiana Conference title with a rugged-throughout 60-56 boys basketball victory over Marian as an energized crowd of about 3,000 fans looked on Friday, Feb. 15, at the Penn Palace.
The Kingsmen wrapped up the game by going 12-of-14 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter, including sophomore Billy Doslak’s clinching 2-for-2 trip with 5.2 seconds remaining for what proved the final count.
The contest featured a showdown of Notre Dame recruits Austin Torres for Penn and McDonald’s All-American Demetrius Jackson for Marian, and neither disappointed.
Torres, playing all 32 minutes, tallied 18 points to go with game highs of 13 rebounds and six blocked shots — two of them on his future Irish teammate — while Jackson netted a game-high 26 points to go with 11 boards, four assists and three steals.
Penn (14-4) closed at 7-1 in the NIC to tie South Bend Adams — a 79-59 winner Friday over South Bend Clay — for the league crown. It’s the Kingsmen’s first NIC title since 2007, and the Eagles’ first since 1989.
“(Adams is) very deserving, and we are, too,” Penn coach Al Rhodes said. “We had to go beat them at their place. We really had to go earn it after a tough loss to Riley.”
The Knights (9-9, 3-5) suffered their third straight defeat, but Marian coach Robb Berger was encouraged.
“We really liked our effort. That’s something we preached,” Berger said. “We didn’t play with much effort (during a two-overtime loss to LaVille) Tuesday night down in Lakeville. The big thing for us was battling for 32 minutes against a quality opponent and I think we did that.”