HAMILTON – Lakeland Christian Academy did something it’s never done before, win a sectional boys basketball game Wednesday night. Fort Wayne Blackhawk did something it’s done more often than not this year, win big. Both teams will put its mojo on the line Friday after winning games at the Class 1-A Hamilton Boys Basketball Sectional.
LCA 63, Fort Wayne Smith Academy 40
This has been an historic season for the Lakeland Christian Academy boys basketball program. A win against a Class 2-A program, another against a regional finalist and throw in a conference championship were all first-time checkmarks in the preseason program. The red Sharpie Chris Hohm and his club put on a winning season and a sectional victory were still there, and needed to come Wednesday against Fort Wayne Smith Academy.
In similar fashion to how LCA has been winning games this season, it used the same recipe to run away from a pesky Fighting 51st.
Leading just 30-25 in the third quarter, Hohm made the call for his club to start bombing away from three if the play was available. The first up was Elijah Raymond, who hit not one, but two on consecutive possessions. A possession later, Hohm called on Jake Harmon, who drilled one right in front of his bench. Shortly thereafter, Braxton Keller found some space on an LCA break and hit the hoop and harm, completing the three-point play to push LCA to a sudden and robust 42-25 advantage.
The 12-0 run on four possessions in less than two minutes was exactly what Hohm and his club needed.
“Eli has been able to hit some threes for us this year, and when he got that clean look, that first one went in,” Hohm said. “That gave us some positive energy, and he was able to set up in about the same spot and hit another, that was a good look. When Jake got his look, I said ‘pull it’ and we were feeling it and I was like let’s go! Then BK (Keller) comes down and converts the three-point play. It all came from guys having their heads up and making good passes.
“Once we got the looks and hit, we really got a jump start.”
LCA would end the third quarter on a 14-3 run, then scored 10 of the game’s next 14 points in the fourth quarter to ice it.
Josh McDaniel continued to shoot the lights out, scoring 24 points, to lead the Cougars. His and-one followed by a three gave LCA a five-point lead heading into the half.
Harmon had 16 points and four assists and Landon Twombly stuffed the stat sheet again with five points, six assists, six rebounds and five steals. Noah Twombly and Keller combined for eight points and nine rebounds.
Smith Academy, which was founded by former Grace College basketball player Corey Smith, his brother, Cameron, and dad, Thomas, bowed out of its season 8-15 and losers of seven of its last eight games. Justin Booker led the Fighting 51st with 14 points and six rebounds while JaJuan Gordon had 11 points and Khyree Barella added eight points and seven boards.
LCA improves to 13-11 overall, guaranteeing itself its first winning season under Hohm and its first campaign since 2004-05. The first sectional win comes after five seasons of one and done in the IHSAA state tournament.
“It feels really good to get that win, to finally have the first one,” Hohm said of the milestone. “My first couple years here I was 2-40 to start, and that was a long stretch. There were so many chances for guys to give up and quit on us. But these seniors stuck it out, and we’ve turned it around a little. They stayed true to improving.”
Up next is Fort Wayne Blackhawk in the semi-finals Friday night, a team LCA has never beaten in 14 meetings, and is currently steamrolling everyone as the No. 1 team in Class 1-A.
“The first thing that jumps out at you is their size,” Hohm said of Blackhawk. “We are going to have to make sure we are smart with our passes. Getting guys into the right spot. Jalan Mull, who is not one of their giants, is probably their best player at the point. So if we sell out on their bigs inside, he’ll burn us. They are a tough matchup everywhere. We’re just going to have to play as hard as we can and see what happens.”
FW Blackhawk 84, Bethany Christian 37
Fort Wayne Blackhawk took little time to back up its No. 1 state ranking, crushing the Bruins, exploding for 30 points after just eight minutes of play. With seven options at 6’4″ or taller, including a 6’11” Jared Hofer coming off the bench, Bethany had absolutely no answers for anything Blackhawk threw at them.
And for all the size, 6’0″ guard Mull was in the middle of it all, scoring 14 point and assisting on seven other baskets. Fellow guard Luke Sassmannshausen scored 12 points while Frank Davidson led the bigs with 16 points and five boards. Caleb Furst, a 6’9″ freshman, added 12 points.
Blackhawk, 22-2 on the season, has played eight Class 1-A opponents this season and are 8-0 with an average margin of victory of 44.5 points, the closest a 20-point nailbiter against No. 6 Barr-Reeve in a December tournament championship. The Braves have lost to just Fort Wayne North and Bishop Dwenger, and are winning their 22 games by an average of 25 points.
Bethany Christian (3-20) lost to Blackhawk by 39 on Jan. 27 and had no shot Wednesday. Seth Brenneman did what he could, scoring 13 points in his final game as a Bruin, the newest member of the 1,000-point club achieved earlier this month. Lucas Brownsberger-Keyes led Bethany with 14 points in his final game.
Blackhawk and LCA will meet in the second game of the Hamilton Sectional semi-finals, with Lakewood Park (7-16) and Hamilton (2-20) facing off in the first game. The tournament championship is set for 7 p.m. Saturday night.