Twice before in the last eight years, the coach Rob Yoder and his Westview Warriors have stood on the brink of reaching the 2A state finals only to have it ripped away from them by a pair of Fort Wayne powerhouses, Harding (2006) and Bishop Luers (2008).
Saturday afternoon at Huntington, Yoder and the Warriors were again one win away from advancing to the ultimate game. They weren’t about to let this opportunity slip away.
Powered by the dominate interior play of forward Chandler Aspy, the magnificent floor leadership of point guard Jordyn Bontrager, the brilliant shooting eye of swingman Jamar Weaver and the spectacular athleticism of forward Judah Zickafoose, Westview held off a scrappy Lewis Cass squad, 65-58 to claim its first 2A semi-state championship in 14 years.
“This feels pretty darned good,” chuckled Yoder, who will lead his 23-4 Warriors into the state finals game this Saturday at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis against 23-4 Park Tudor. “I’m so happy for our players. They have put in so much hard work to get here. It’s nice to see them rewarded for that.”
Westview started strong, scoring the first six points of the contest. The most dramatic of those markers was produced by Zickafoose. The 6-3 senior broke away from the pack to throw down a slam-dunk, much to the delight of the more than 2000 Warrior fans who made the trip from LaGrange County.
The Warriors stretched their early lead to as many as nine (11-2). But Cass, which had won 20 straight decisions coming into the semi-state, roared back to net 12 of the final 14 points of the frame to take a 14-13 edge.
“Cass is a very good team with a lot of senior leaders and we knew they would fight throughout the game,” stated Bontrager. “They might be the best team we’ve played so far.”
Westview scored the last seven points of the second period to build a 10-point halftime spread (29-19). Weaver’s second three-pointer of the tilt, along with buckets by Aspy and Bontrager fueled the spurt.
“Some of the adjustments we made on defense stopped a lot of the penetration into the lane that Cass likes to do,” said Yoder. “I think we stopped that aspect of their game as well as anyone had.”
The Warrior lead was nine (37-28) late in the third quarter when Cass put together another surge to chop the difference to two. “Give them (Cass) a ton of credit,” said Yoder. “Each time it looked as though we were about to pull away, they would make a play or two to get them right back into the game.”
Needing a spark heading into the final stanza, the Warriors got it from Weaver. The senior sharpshooter buried another triple from the left wing to extend the margin to five (40-35).
“That was a huge shot by Jamar,” cited Yoder. “It gave us some momentum going into the fourth quarter.”
Cass stayed within striking distance for most of the final period, thanks mainly to the play of senior guard Austin Keisling and freshman Evan Ohman, who wound up leading the Kings in scoring with 20 and 12 points, respectively. Keisling’s triple from the deep corner with 1:49 to play drew Cass back to within three (54-51).
But nine seconds later, Weaver drove a stake through the heart of the Kings when he rattled home his fourth and final trey to double the Warrior lead. “I was praying when the ball was bouncing on the rim,” admitted the 5-11 senior, who finished with 14 points. “Coach (Yoder) told us not to shoot unless we had a layup or could draw a foul, but I was wide open so I shot.”
Following a Cass turnover, Zickafoose turned a missed Westview free throw into a put-back hoop to give his team a 59-51 advantage. The Kings wouldn’t get closer than five after that.
“We are so fortunate to play a schedule that includes tough games against bigger schools, teams that can test us during the season and prepare us for moments like today and last week in the regional,” said Yoder. “When these kinds of games go down to the wire, our players can rely on those experiences to help get them through it.”
Aspy, a 6-3 junior, finished with 19 points to pace the Westview attack. “Our guards did a great job of getting me the ball where I could do something with it,” said Aspy, who also snagged nine rebounds before fouling out late in the game. “We thought if we could slow it down and work to get the shot we wanted, we would have a good chance to score.”
Bontrager recorded team-highs in both rebounds (11) and assists (6) to go with his 18 points. “He is one of the best guards in this part of the state,” said Yoder of his 5-11 floor general. “If you combine his defense with his shot-making ability, I don’t know too many who are better.”
Seniors Ryan Bixler and Blake Hadley each tossed in nine points for Cass, which bows out with a 22-3 record.
Next up for Westview is Park Tudor, which whipped Clarksville, 76-64 on Saturday at Seymour to win the 2A southern semi-state. But the Warrior coach isn’t ready to think about that game just yet. “We want to enjoy this win (over Cass) a little bit before starting to get ready for Park Tudor,” said Yoder. “During the season, you don’t often get a chance to savor a victory. We’ll start preparing on Monday night and go from there.”
The 2A state championship game is slated to tip-off at approximately 12:45 p.m. It will follow the 1A title tilt between Barr-Reeve and Marquette Catholic scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m.
Lewis Cass 58
Scoring by quarters
WV 13 16 11 25 -65
LC 14 5 16 23 -58
Jordyn Bontrager 7-13, 4-7, 18; Daron Miller 0-1, 0-2, 0; Judah Zickafoose 4-6, 0-0, 8; Jamar Weaver 4-9, 2-2, 14; Brody Jantzi 0-1, 1-3, ; Cody Litwiller 0-0, 0-0, 0; Andrew Yoder 0-0, 0-0, 0; Chase Anderson 0-0, 0-0, 0; Damon Hershberger 2-3, 1-2, 5; Chandler Aspy 9-16, 1-1, 19; Kade Miller 0-0, 0-0, 0; Tim Miller 0-0, 0-0, 0; Totals 26-49, 9-17, 65
Three-point shooting 4-10 (Weaver 4-6, Bontrager 0-3, Aspy 0-1); Rebounds 24 (Bontrager 11, Aspy 9); Steals 6 (Bontrager 2, Weaver 2); Assists 10 (Bontrager 6); Turnovers 10; Team Fouls 13 (Fouled Out: Aspy)
Owen Ohman 2-6, 1-2, 6; Victor DeJesus 1-1, 0-0, 2; Ryan Bixler 3-10, 2-2, 9; Austin Keisling 9-18, 1-2, 20; Destin Irwin 0-0, 0-0, 0; Jacob Martin 0-1, 0-0, 0; Evan Ohman 3-6, 5-5, 12; Drew McRae 0-2, 0-0, 0; Blake Hadley 4-10, 1-1, 9; Totals 22-54, 10-13, 58
Three-point shooting 4-16 (O. Ohman 1-4, Bixler 1-3, Keisling 1-4, E. Ohman 1-2, Martin 0-1, Hadley 0-2); Rebounds 27 (O. Ohman 6, Bixler 6); Steals 4 (Keisling 2), Assists 7 (Bixler 3, Keisling 3); Turnovers 6; Team Fouls 16 (Fouled Out: Keisling)
At Lafayette Jeff
Lake Central 79, Homestead 57
Indpls. Tech 75, Bloomington N. 71
At Huntington North
Bowman Acad. 85, FW Dwenger 71
Greensburg 74, Guerin Catholic 67
At Huntington North
Westview 65, Lewis Cass 58
Park Tudor 76, Clarksville 64
At Lafayette Jeff
Marquette Cath. 72, Liberty Chr. 61
Barr-Reeve 75, Clay City 55
STATE FINALS PAIRINGS
(At Banker’s Life Fieldhouse)
10:30 a.m.—Barr-Reeve (26-1) vs. Marquette Catholic (19-6)
12:45 p.m.—Park Tudor (23-4) vs. Westview (23-4)
6 p.m.—Greensburg (27-1) vs. Bowman Academy (22-4)
8:15 p.m.—Indianapolis Tech (26-2) vs. Lake Central (22-3)