BERNE—Defending sectional champion Adams Central met their end on Friday night at the hands of an athletic Bishop Luers team led by James Blackmon, Jr.
After three quarters of back and forth runs from both teams, the Knights began to take advantage of a worn down Jets squad and won pulling away, 69-47, earning the right to face Bluffton in the sectional title game tonight at South Adams. The Tigers topped Eastside, 46-39 in game two.
Blackmon, Jr., who leads northeast Indiana averaging 35 points per game, was the central focus for coach Aaron McClure and the AC defense. The Jets played a triangle-and-two against the Knights in an attempt to keep the ball out of Blackmon's hands.
The plan worked for the most part in the first half as the junior was held to just eight points and the Jets trailed by just three points at 32-29.
The Jets played inspired basketball to start the game jumping out to a 12-5 lead behind a pair of Dalton Combs three-pointers. Starting at about the four-minute mark in the first quarter, however, the lid dropped back on the basket and AC went cold.
Luers went on an 11-3 run to end the frame capped off by a three-pointer from Randon Jackson, a 6'5" transfer from Marion, and the Knights were up 16-15.
In the second period, Blackmon picked up where the team left off scoring or assisting on the next 12 points as Bishop Luers started the frame on a 12-0 run.
Then, without warning, the Jets began to claw back. Combs converted a post lay-up plus the foul and the free throw made it 30-20 Luers. Fellow senior Isaac Luginbill made a pair of free throws on the next trip, then Combs made two more on a slick baseline fadeaway cutting the lead down to six points at 30-24.
After the Knights scored on an offensive board, the Jets got a lift from reluctant shooter, Alex Byerly, who stroked a three-pointer from the corner when he noticed no one was guarding him. Junior forward Nick Baumer made two free throws the next time down and it was a three-point game winding down the second quarter. Luginbill's three-point try at the buzzer was just long.
"They made a run at us in the second and we cut it to three points at the half," coach McClure observed. "It was back and forth in the third but in that last three minutes they really took advantage of some turnovers. They're so athletic that they convert just about every time in the transition.
In that third frame, AC actually earned the lead and looked to be back on track when Luginbill made a long three-pointer plus a foul for a four-point play putting the Jets up 33-32.
After a pair of Luers baskets, Combs' three-pointer tied the game at 36-36. On the next possession, Luginbill scored a basket plus the harm on a blocking call down low and the lead was three points for the Jets. It would prove to be the last time AC held a lead in the game, however, as Blackmon would take over.