HARTFORD CITY – Two of the area's best boys basketball programs – Concordia Lutheran and Norwell – will play for the Class 3A Blackford Regional title tonight. It could turn into quite a shootout.
Concordia beat Hamilton Heights 65-49 and Norwell beat Tippecanoe Valley 77-65 earlier today to advance to the regional championship game at 7:30 tonight at Blackford.
Concordia (21-4) will seek its third regional title and first since 2000. Norwell (18-6) will shoot for its fourth regional title and second in a row.
Norwell coach Randy Hawkins said his team will be ready for the challenge of dealing with a dangerous Cadets squad.
“We've got to be now,” he said. “It's all about one game at a time with me. I've seen Concordia play two times live. We'll spend the afternoon breaking down game film and getting ready.”
Josh Eggold and his Concordia team were doing the same.
“Norwell has played good competition and they have the experience of being here in the past,” Eggold said.
Concordia beat a Hamilton Heights team playing without its leading scorer, Alex Etherington, who was suspended for one game by the school for an undisclosed reason. But after jumping to a 21-8 first-quarter lead, Concordia had to stave off a furious Hamilton Heights comeback.
Hamilton Heights tied the game 31-31 in the third quarter, but back-to-back buckets by Thomas Starks – keyed by Concordia's pressure defense – helped the Cadets regain control. Starks hit a long three-pointer at the third quarter buzzer and Concordia led 47-35 heading into the fourth.
The Cadets controlled things from there. Starks finished with 20 points while Concordia was led by D.J. McCall's 24 points.
“With what they've got to offer, they can go deep – really deep (in the tournament),” Hamilton Heights coach Chad Ballenger said. “We could be watching them in the (state) finals.”
Norwell, meanwhile, needed a similar third-quarter burst to knock off Tippecanoe Valley. The Knights trailed by a bucket when junior forward David Vogel hit a three-point shot, drew the foul and converted a four-point play. Junior forward Drew Shively added a three-point play the hard way shortly afterward and senior guard Josh VanMeter hit a three-point shot at the end of the quarter.
Tippecanoe Valley coach Bill Patrick called Vogel's four-point play a turning point.
“He's a pretty good shooter,” Patrick said. “If you leave him open, he'll shoot the ball. He took it to the basket better than we thought he would, too.”
“David stepped up and hit some big threes, some big shots for us,” Hawkins said. “He's played well for us last the three games and I hope he can continue to do that rolling into tonight with a tough Concordia team.”
Norwell scored 24 third-quarter points to go up 55-44 heading into the fourth. VanMeter led the Knights with 26 points, Shively added 17 and Vogel 16.
Tippecanoe Valley was led by Tanner Andrews' 22 points and Nick Kindig's 16.