MICHIGAN CITY — Penn stormed back twice, even pulling even, but couldn’t get over the top and saw its record-setting boys high school basketball season end with a 57-55 heart-aching loss to Lake Central in the Class 4A Michigan City Regional championship Saturday, March 15.
Tyler Wideman’s putback bucket with three seconds left lifted the No. 8-ranked Indians to the win. Robert Ryan then intercepted the Kingsmen’s long and desperate inbound as time ticked away.
"Whenever the season ends, people are sad, but when you’re a special group like this one is, devastating is what I would call it," Kingsmen coach Al Rhodes said. "Our locker room’s like a morgue."
No. 6-ranked Penn closed at 23-2, establishing a school standard for winning percentage.
The Kingsmen trailed by a high of 15 late in the first half and by 13 at the intermission, 29-16.
They closed to 31-28 midway through the third quarter, but Lake Central (21-3) surged again, going up 45-34 by the end of that period.
Yet, Jordan Geist — who uncorked his second 20-point second half of the day — led a second Penn rally.
The Kingsmen tied the game for the first time since early in the first quarter on Geist’s 18-footer that made the count 55-all with 26 seconds left.
Tye Wilburn then drove the middle for the Indians as time wound down, missing his layup as Penn converged, but the 6-foot-7 Wideman put in the rebound.
The Butler recruit finished a perfect 5-of-5 from the field and 6-of-8 at the line for 16 points to go with seven rebounds and three blocks. Wilburn added 12 points and Tyler Ross 10.
"We just needed a stop on the last possession, and we got a missed layup, but we just couldn't keep the big guy off," Rhodes said. "All of our traffic ended up headed toward the layup, and they got the tip-in."
Geist was largely stymied in the first half with just two points, but the resilient junior closed with 22 for the Kingsmen to go with a team-high six boards and three drawn charges.
Fellow juniors Billy Doslak, Ryan Lutz and Nate Miller added nine, eight and eight points, respectively.
"I would think (the loss) would give them quite a bit (of motivation)," Rhodes said of his four underclassmen guards who shined all season, "and they’re quality individuals, so I expect to have a strong team next year."
While Penn was partially junior-led during the season — they also got key contributions from seniors Christian Wittendorf, Andrew Kimm, Taylor Brooks and Cory Kreiger during their record march — Lake Central was senior-dominated, including six of the seven individuals who played major minutes Saturday.
And the Indians indeed looked like the more seasoned group in the first half while building a cushion that ultimately proved necessary. They had the Kingsmen roughly doubled up on the scoreboard through much of the initial two periods.
"First of all, great defense by Lake Central," Rhodes said of why the Indians dominated. "We just were not able to reverse the ball with good choices, and they also limited us to one shot."
Lake Central became just the second opponent this season, South Bend Washington the other, to outrebound Penn, finishing with a 20-15 advantage on a night that boards were scarce for both sides thanks to solid shooting by both.
The Kingsmen's second-half charge stemmed in large part from effective zone traps. The Indians finished with 15 turnovers to Penn's 11.
The teams were nearly even from the field, Lake Central going 21-of-37 and the Kingsmen 20-of-37. Penn drained 12-of-14 free throws, including 8-of-8 by Geist, to the Indians' 10-of-15. Lake Central, however, was 5-of-11 on 3-pointers, including 3-of-5 by Matt Meneghetti off the bench, to the Kingsmen's 3-of-7.
LAKE CENTRAL 57, PENN 55
Lake Central — Tyler Ross 3-5 2-2 10, Cory Dickelman 4-7 0-0 8, Tyler Wideman 5-5 6-8 16, Tye Wilburn 5-10 2-5 12, Joe Bannister 0-4 0-0 0, Robert Ryan 1-1 0-0 2, Matt Neneghetti 3-5 0-0 9, Ian Martin 0-0 0-0 0, Chris Tuskan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-37 (.568) 10-15 (.667) 57.
Penn — Christian Wittendorf 2-3 0-0 4, Ryan Lutz 3-7 2-2 8, Andrew Kimm 1-1 0-0 2, Billy Doslak 3-4 2-2 9, Jordan Geist 7-16 8-8 22, Taylor Brooks 1-1 0-0 2, Nate Miller 3-4 0-0 8, Cory Kreiger 0-0 0-0 0, Isaiah Cook 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 20-37 (.541) 12-14 (.857) 55.
Scoring By Quarters
Lake Central — 13 16 16 12 — 57
Penn — 6 10 18 21 — 55
3-point goals: Lake Central (5-11) — Meneghetti 3-5, Ross 2-3; Penn (3-7) — Miller 2-2, Doslak 1-2.
Rebounds: Lake Central (20) — Wideman 7, Ross 4; Penn (15) — Geist 6, Wittendorf 2, Kimm 2, Brooks 2.
Assists: Lake Central (13) — Ross 3, Wideman 3, Ryan 3; Penn (9) — Kreiger 3, Miller 2.
Steals: Lake Central (5) — Ryan 2; Penn (7) — Lutz 2, Geist 2, Miller 2.
Turnovers: Lake Central 15, Penn 11.
Total fouls: Lake Central 16, Penn 17. Fouled out — Ross (2:24, 4th quarter).
Officials: Shawn Lambert, Zionsville; Matt Hans, Columbia City; Tim Smith, Mentone.
Records: Lake Central 21-3, Penn 23-2
Next: Lake Central vs. Homestead in 4A northern semistate Saturday, March 22 at Lafayette Jeff or Huntington North.