GOSHEN — The Menno Lands were far from friendly to the Lakeland Christian Academy boys basketball team Friday night. The Cougars took on Fort Wayne Blackhawk in the semifinals of the IHSAA Class 1-A Sectional 52 Tournament at Bethany Christian an were downed 87-51 by the defending champion Braves.
“They’ve got a lot of good athletes and a lot of good shooters,” LCA head coach Chris Hohm said of Blackhawk. “On top of that, they play a very tough schedule. I looked back the past few years and they have a winning record against 1-A, 2-A and 3-A teams and they’re just slightly under .500 against 4-A, we knew they’d be very tough. But, I was proud of the way that we battled.”
While a 36-point loss is far from ideal, the effort and result that LCA had Friday night was miles ahead of last year’s sectional loss to the Braves, a 95-40 dismantling in Fort Wayne.
Blackhawk was just the better team and there was no way to dispute that. The Braves won the rebound battle 45-26, grabbing 17 offensive boards in the process. While LCA did force 14 turnovers, it also gave possession up 19 times. Blackhawk shot 47-percent from the field while the Cougars were successful just 35-percent of the time.
Jalan Mull was the biggest problem for the Cougars as he totaled a team-high 22 points while also tallying game-highs with seven assists and five steals. Mull added four boards to his stat line and committed just one turnover despite having his hands on the ball more than most players. Blackhawk had three more players in double figures with Kyle Zurbuch (18 points), Frank Davidson (16) and Devin Donaldson (11).
LCA’s Josh McDaniel did everything in his power to keep his team in it as he hit a new career high point total with 30 to lead all scorers. That finished the junior off with 380 points this season and 843 for his career going into his senior campaign. McDaniel also accounted for three steals and four rebounds in the loss. Landon Twombly had big second and fourth quarter showings to tally 12 points. Jake Harmon added five while Jeremy Gross and Braxton Keller each scored two for the visiting team on the scoreboard.
The Cougars got off to a very slow start and trailed 30-14 after the first quarter, all LCA points coming from McDaniel in the frame. At the half Blackhawk had extended its lead to 58-30 and 79-36 after three.
While ineffective for the most part on Friday, LCA made its mark with successful perimeter shooting through much of the season. That helped the Cougars win their most amount of games, eight, since joining the IHSAA. Hohm knows he will have the same perimeter stability next season and is hoping to see more development in the post.
“I would like out post players to develop a more well-rounded game,” Hohm explained. “If they could do that and get more confident with the ball in their hands, that would be huge for us. They do a nice job of doing the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet, but any time you have guys that are confident with the ball in their hands, it gives you a lot more options.”
LCA (8-16) will returns its entire roster next season. Blackhawk (17-9) moves on to play Lakewood Park Christian in Saturday’s championship game at 7 p.m. The Braves beat LPC earlier this season 75-68.
LPC defeated Hamilton 64-34 in the second semifinal Friday night. Keegan Fetters led all scorers with 25 points for LPC while Hamilton was led by Bailey Merritt’s 10 points.