SOUTH BEND — Mark Johnson had his first ut-oh moment just a few seconds into the championship game of the Class 4A South Bend Sectional on Monday, March 10.
That’s when the Penn Kingsmen grabbed five offensive rebounds on their first possession of the game against his South Bend Riley Wildcats.
Ut-oh is right.
Penn went on to dominate both the boards and the Wildcats in the title game, as the Kingsmen defeated Riley, 70-45, to win their first sectional under Hall of Fame coach Al Rhodes.
The Kingsmen, now 22-1, will face Concord (15-8) in the second semifinal game of the Michigan City Regional on Saturday, March 15. LaPorte and Lake Central will play in the regional opener.
"This group of kids put in so much work in the weight room and practicing their shooting and passing and defense, that they didn’t want to get to the championship game and lose,’’ Rhodes said. "They knew what was at stake and they were extremely focused on getting it done.’’
Led by senior big men Taylor Brooks and Andrew Kimm, the Kingsmen dominated inside, outrebounding the Wildcats 36-18, while the two-headed monster of Kimm and Brooks also blocked six Riley shots.
"I knew in the lockeroom that we were totally focused on winning tonight,’’ Brooks said. "From the coaches to the players who didn’t dress to the players that dressed, we knew what we had to do and we were going to leave it all on the court.''
Although the Kingsmen never trailed, Riley hung around for much of the game, before a 16-3 Penn run closed out the game and sent the Wildcats home with a 14-9 record.
"They just set the tone on their first possession and we knew it could be a tough night,'' Johnson admitted. "We are at our best when we can go inside with the ball and score and then maybe kick it outside. But with Penn playing so strong inside, it really messed us up offensively. We started rushing shots, we had kids who aren't great outside shooters, shooting 3's and kids driving and trying to create that shouldn't be doing that either.
"But you have to credit Penn for a lot of our problems. They aren't 22-1 by accident, they're a very good basketball team.''
One of the biggest keys to the victory was Penn's defensive effort on Riley junior center Ja'Mare Washington. The keystone of the Riley inside game was held to just four points and four shots by the Kingsmen defense, again keyed by Kimm and Brooks.
"Defensively, our focus was limiting Riley to just one shot per possession and then grabbing the rebound,'' Rhodes said. "We wanted to get out and run tonight and I though we did a great job of doing that.''
Riley's best shot at posting the upset may have been to get Penn into a helter-skelter game and really try to force the issue offensively _ which is what they did for most of the first half
The Wildcats trailed by just one early in the second quarter, before an 8-2 Penn run pushed the lead to seven in the space of 1:30. The Kingsmen would eventually lead by 11 at halftime, before slowly pulling away late in the third quarter and then holding Riley to just three points in the final eight minutes.
After an emotional and draining overtime victory over host Washington on Friday, March 7, Penn did not have to come back and play until Monday, thanks to their girls team playing for a state title in Terre Haute on Saturday.
Did the extra rest help? Rhodes thinks so.
"I know it was one of the longest weekends of my life waiting to play this game and not being able to practice on Sunday,'' Rhodes admitted. "But I'll say this, Washington took a lot out of us and I think the opportunity to have an extra couple days of rest was important to us. Our kids were fresh and ready to go tonight.''
Penn had four players in double figures, led by Billy Doslak’s 15 points and 14 from Jordan Geist. Brooks had 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, while Ryan Lutz added 10 points for Penn.
After missing 14 free throws in their win over Washington, Penn was back to normal at the line against Riley, hitting 25 of 28 from the charity stripe.
Micah Williams led Riley with 12 points _ 10 coming in the first half.
CLASS 4A SB WASHINGTON SECTIONAL
PENN 70, SB RILEY 45
Penn— Jordan Geist 6-8 0-0 14, Ryan Lutz 2-5 4-4 10, Christian Wittendorf 2-5 2-2 6, Andrew Kimm 1-2 2-2 4, Billy Doslak 2-11 9-11 15, Nate Miller 1-3 2-2 4, Taylor Brooks 4-5 4-5 12, Cory Krieger 1-3 2-2 5, Matt Chaffee 0-0 0-0 0, Isaiah Cook 0-0 0-0 0.. Totals: 19-43 (.448) 25-28 (.898) 70.
Riley— Maurice Scott Jr. 0-6 2-2 2, Ja’Mare Washington 2-3 0-1 4, Reontre Lawrence 3-8 1-3 7, Jaquan Walker 2-4 1-2 5, Micah Williams 5-11 0-0 12, Miquan Patton 3-5 1-2 7, Thaddeus Phillips 1-1 0-0 2, Jadon Grundy 0-0 0-0 0, Joshua Hodge 2-2 2-4 6. Totals: 18-40 (.450). 7-14 (.500) 45.
Scoring By Quarters
Penn — 14 26 18 12 — 70
Riley — 11 18 13 3 — 45
3-point goals: Penn (7-13)) — Geist 2-2, Lutz 2-5, Doslak 2-5, Kreiger 1-2; Riley (2-8) — Williams 2-4..
Rebounds: Penn (36) —Kimm 7 ; Riley (18) — Williams 5 .
Assists: Penn (7) — Miller 3; Riley (4) — Scott 2..
Turnovers: Penn 7, Riley 8.
Total fouls: Penn 14, Riley 20.
Records: Penn 22-1, Riley 14-9.
Next: Lake Central vs. LaPorte, 11 a.m. ET, Penn vs. Concord, following, Saturday, March 15, in semifinals of Class 4A Michigan City Regional; Championship, 8 p.m. ET.