By Beau Wicker For the Kokomo Tribune
---- — NORTH MANCHESTER — Lewis Cass’ boys basketball team faced a 16-win Manchester team on its home court with the season on the line Friday night.
The Class 2A No. 7-Kings were too much for the Squires, powering their way to a 69-57 win and into the sectional final.
The Kings (19-2) face Oak Hill (11-11) at 7:30 p.m. tonight for the Class 2A Manchester Sectional title. The Squires finish 16-6.
Senior guard Austin Keisling had 24 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals to lead the Kings to the win. He was 5 of 8 from the field and 14 of 19 from the foul line.
“I thought we executed real well as a team,” Keisling said. “Drew McRae stepped up real well and I just had to play my game and everyone else just flowed with it. Blake [Hadley] played great. We boxed out well, rebounded well. It was an overall great game.”
The Kings got the Squires in foul trouble in the first half in building up a 30-24 lead at the half. Four Manchester starters had two fouls on them by halftime.
That continued into the second half as Cass outscored Manchester 26-13 from the line for the game.
“Our key was driving, kicking and then driving all the way. We kept them guessing on that,” Keisling said. “Their 1-3-1 [zone defense] gave us a little trouble [in the second half] but we worked it out.”
To go with all the free throws the Kings shot 20 of 30 from the field and forced 19 Manchester turnovers.
“They were more athletic in almost every category,” Manchester coach Eric Thompson said. “Even our top athletic players were not as athletic as they were. Plus it helps when you’re athletic, the coach puts you in the right spots and you knock down your shots, you’re going to be hard to beat.”
Keisling scored six straight points for the Kings out of the halftime break to give them a 36-26 lead. Owen Ohman then scored eight straight to end the quarter including back-to-back 3-pointers from the right corner as the Kings led 48-34 after three.
McRae scored in the lane on an assist by Hadley and two Evan Ohman free throws later gave the Kings their biggest lead of the game at 52-37 with 6:26 remaining. Manchester never got any closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Senior guard Claudel Dickantone provided most of the Squires offense with 33 points. He was 12 of 25 from the field, 4 of 9 from 3 and added six rebounds.
“He’s a tough player,” Keisling said. “I had never seen him play before so I was interested to see how good he was and he’s a solid player. He’s got a bright future.”
Clayton Petrie, a 6-foot-3 senior, added eight points and six boards for Manchester. Chase Fierstos was 2 of 3 from 3 for six points.
Hadley had 14 points and three assists for Cass. Owen Ohman had 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting and added four rebounds and three steals. Evan Ohman scored nine points off the bench. Ryan Bixler added four points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals.
Cass coach Jon Kitchel was happy to come away with a win against a Manchester squad that recorded its most wins since 1998.
“It was a battle. Eric’s teams are so well coached,” he said. “We’d seen them play two or three times and defensively they don’t make many mistakes. But I’ll take our strength and quickness out front with the guards and I think that was the difference in the game. We were able to get to the basket and get them in foul trouble and then get to the free-throw line. We didn’t shoot free throws as well as we normally do (26 for 39, 66.7 percent) but we shot well enough.”
The Kings face another squad they haven’t played yet this season, Oak Hill, tonight for the sectional title. Oak Hill knocked off two-time defending champ Northfield 66-46 on Friday.
“They’re going to be a team that gets right in your face and they want to win this sectional and cut the nets down as bad as we do,” Kitchel said. “So if we think it’s over than we’ll get a big surprise [tonight].”