Having Deshaun Thomas can do that for a program.
Thomas was extraordinary Wednesday as he scored a game-high 36 points and grabbed 19 rebounds to lead the Knights to a 69-59 win over Harding in the championship game at Wayne High School in front of a standing-room only crowd of more than 3,400.
The 2009 championship for the Knights added to the 2008 and 2007 trophies earned in wins over Snider and South Side, respectively.
“Deshaun's going to be Deshaun,” Knight coach James Blackmon said. “He rebounded well and got off to a great start and played with a lot of energy early on in the ball game.”
Thomas' effort against the Hawks followed up his 39-point effort in a semifinal win earlier Wednesday over Elmhurst. Those two performances, along with his 43 points scored in last year's tournament against Bishop Dwenger, give him three of the top five scoring games in SAC Tournament history.
The 6-foot-7 forward, who became the IHSAA's fifth-leading all-time scorer during the game, nearly outscored Harding (6-2) by himself in the first half, as he had 21 at the break and his team led 32-25. The Hawks trailed by as many as 13 on a couple of occasions in the first 16 minutes before a 5-0 run to close the half.
“We just didn't shoot the ball that well in the first quarter,” Harding coach Al Gooden said of his team's missing 17 of their first 20 shots. “That first quarter just killed us.”
Harding senior Rod Smith (eight boards) drained a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer and kept his momentum going into the second half. The senior forward scored 11 of his team-high 16 points in the second half.
Harding pulled to 45-43 midway through the third period, but Bishop Luers (5-2) responded by putting in seven of the next nine points to take a 52-45 lead into the final period.
In the fourth quarter, the Hawks again made a run, trimming their deficit to 56-52. But Luers junior Evan Blackmon scored eight of his team's final 13 points, and Luers was never seriously threatened. Blackmon finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, which made up for his three-point output earlier in the day against Elmhurst.
“I just stepped my game up and learned from my mistakes,” Blackmon said.
Both Blackmon and Thomas were helped by Knight point guard Ken Mullen, who dished out six assists in the win.
Aside from Smith, the Hawks got solid contributions from La'Mondre Warren (16 points, three assists, four rebounds), Diamond Lymon (eight points, six rebounds), and V.J. Beachem (11 points).
Bishop Luers will host Muncie South at 6 p.m. Saturday (junior varsity tip-off). Harding will host New Haven at 6:15 p.m. Jan. 5.
IHSAA scoring leaders♦Damon Bailey, Bedford North Lawrence: 3,134
♦Marion Pierce, Lewisville: 3,019
♦Body Boyd, Union (Dugger): 2,632
♦Rick Mount, Lebanon: 2,595
♦Deshaun Thomas, Bishop Luers: 2,491
♦South Side tops Luers in girls final, Page 3S