In a boys basketball matchup between Class 2A teams enjoying strong seasons, Lewis Cass rode a dominant first half to a 49-46 victory over No. 6-ranked Taylor on Saturday night at Center Court.
The Kings buried the Titans 32-14 in the first half. The Kings ripped the nets with 11-of-18 shooting while harassing the Titans into 5-of-20 shooting and nine turnovers.
From there, Cass weathered Taylor’s comeback attempt. The Titans closed to within two, 46-44, with :37 remaining, but the Kings’ Luke Chambers made 3 of 4 free throws over the final :13 to help seal the win.
“We had a great first half,” Cass coach Kyle Johnson said. “I told them in the locker room, they were going to get a surge from [the Titans], they weren’t going to go lightly on their home court. The physicality picked up, the intensity picked up, the speed picked up. I’m proud of the guys and the defensive effort. It was a really good defensive effort in the first half, which got us started.
“That’s a good team and it’s a good win for the Kings.”
Cass improved to 10-4, including 4-1 this month. Taylor dropped to 12-2 following its second straight loss. Western beat Taylor 44-38 on Jan. 14.
“There’s a lot of things that we did poorly that we also did poorly against Western and that’s discouraging to me,” Taylor coach Bob Wonnell said. “It’s all traced back to our practice habits and effort. If we want to be the team that I think we’re capable of being, then we need to get better at practice every day.
“If we can do that, we can correct the things we’ve done poorly and that’s over the last few games, not just the two losses. We were kind of playing with fool’s gold a little bit.”
Taylor used full-court pressure to fuel its comeback attempt. The Titans forced the Kings into 14 turnovers and 3-of-9 shooting in the second half, but the Kings made the most of their free throw opportunities, hitting 11 of 14 in the half.
Taylor outscored Cass 13-6 in the second quarter to draw within 38-27. The Titans kept coming in the fourth quarter. When Jay Patterson scored a hoop-and-harm 3-point play at 2:40, the Titans had closed to within four, 41-37.
From there, the Titans forced a turnover, but they could not convert into points. The Kings’ Chambers grabbed a defensive rebound at 2:10 and Haden McClain hit both ends of a one-and-one at 2:07 for a 43-37 lead.
After the Titans’ Mekhi McGee hit a jumper at 1:45, the Kings’ Tyson Good hit both ends of a one-and-one at 1:23. Following another McGee basket at 1:02, Good split a double bonus at :50 for a 46-41 lead. Taylor’s Baris Moore drilled a 3-pointer at :37 to make it a two-point game, but Chambers hit two free throws at :13.
The Titans’ Misaiah Bebley scored on a putback basket at :07 to make it a two-point game again. Chambers made one of two free throws at :06 for a 49-46 lead. Moore missed a potential tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
Good finished with a game-high 20 points to lead the Kings. Chambers made 9 of 11 free throws and scored 11 points and L.J. Hillis scored seven points. Chambers and Hillis battled foul trouble with Chambers sitting most of the second quarter and Hillis fouling out. Johnson liked the bench play he received from McClain and Keaton Lewellen.
“I think the difference maker [Saturday] again with some great senior leadership was Tyson Good, facilitating up front,” Johnson added.
The Kings have more pressure coming there way as they host Maconaquah on Friday and visit Kokomo on Saturday.
“I got probably one day to just enjoy this weekend because there’s some big ones coming up,” Johnson said. “Maconaquah is coming on hard and everybody knows about Kokomo.”
Wonnell lamented a lack of “winning plays” by his team such as winning 50-50 balls, diving on loose balls and committing to blockouts.
“Cass is a good team,” he said. “In Sagarin, they’re rated higher than us. They play a good schedule, they have big kids, they have good basketball players. When you’re playing against good competition, you have to play with a level of urgency that sometimes we don’t play with.”
Moore led the Titans with 14 points. Patterson had 11 points and Bebley offered a spark with nine points and eight rebounds. Bebley had six offensive boards, turning four into putbacks.
The Titans, like the Kings, battled foul trouble. Moore, Patterson and McGee all finished with four fouls. The officials called a total of 38 fouls between the two teams.