Tigers execute plan, stun Bishop Luers 80-68 for title

    BERNE — "We were very confident," stated Keith Cochran after Bluffton's incredible 80-68 win over perennial state power Bishop Luers in the championship game of the 2A South Adams Boys Basketball Sectional Monday night.
    "We had a game plan. In fact, Coach (Kevin) Leising had a 15-page book covering everything we had to do to win this game, their strengths and weaknesses. We knew exactly what we were supposed to do, then went out and did it," added the 6-10 junior center, who lives in Decatur.
    The Tigers did that and more, taking advantage of a flat Luers' effort early, building a 23-13 first period lead, and expanding it to 43-25 at half. In the second half it was more of the same. When Tourney MVP Cam Gerber knocked down a trey from the left side at the 4:42 mark of period three, Bluffton led 54-31.
    At that point, Luers started its comeback. Kameron Mack drive inside for a bucket for the Knights and seconds later Evan Blackmon scored on a putback. It was 54-37 after Jaylon Smith drove in for a bucket.
    Finally, Michael Vanderkolk, who had 19 points and six rebounds, ended the streak with two free throws. In fact, Bluffton hit 30 of 44 free throws for the game compared to 8 of 16 for Luers.
    The Knights charged all the way back, cutting the lead to two, 61-59 as Evan Blackmon drove in and was fouled, converting. Gerber hit from 15 feet, and Mack answered, then Bluffton did the improbably, fighting off the surge, and rolling the lead back to 70-61.
    "That was my favorite part of the game," stated former Bellmont Coach Leising.
    "I'm sure the fans, even moms and dads and grandparents were thinking, 'Well, they made a nice effort, but they're going to lose.' But the kids didn't panic and found a way."
    Impressive freshman Michael Pearson with a huge putback for a 67-61 lead at the 4:10 mark, and the Tigers were in their stall, hoping they could keep Luers from stealing the win.
    Luers hit the wall about that time, even with Cochran out of the game with his fifth foul (5:10). The Tigers missed several free throws, but made enough down the stretch. Already in foul trouble, Luers lost Evan Blackmon and two others, and eventually coach James Blackmon after his second technical foul.
    "When it got close ... sure we were scared, but we knew we could do it," said Cochran.
    "We were used to it. Bluffton has played Luers the last four years. We knew exactly what to expect and how tough it would be to close them out," said the center.
    "We don't win this without the Pearson kid playing like that," stated Leising, noting that a sickness to one of his starters puts him one short for the postseason. "Of course, we don't win a game like this without everyone playing well. But this kid is a freshman and produced right down the stretch," praised Leising.
    Pearson had 12 points while Cochran scored 11 with six boards, and Gerber scored 26, hitting 11 of 14 free throws, including six of eight in the final period. Chandler Okey scored 9 with seven rebounds.
    Frosh James Blackmon led Luers with 16 points while Evan Blackmon scored 13 with 10 boards, Kenny Mullen 10 and Mack 9 points.
    Bluffton fell to Luers four years ago after leading by seven in the fourth period. It wasn't as close two years ago, and last year Luers won in a blowout early in the tourney. Luers won 2A state crowns in 2008 and 2009, then fell to Southwood last year in regional competition.
    This Tiger team, 16-6, had the right answers, and a lot of great ballhandling down the stretch. The Tigers committed just 16 turnovers against the all-out Luers press.
    Bluffton will play host Tipton (22-2) in 2A Regional play Saturday.
North Miami (8-15) will take on Carroll (Flora) 13-9 in the second game.
    The last Bluffton Sectional victory came in 2004.
IHSAA Boy's Basketball
Class 2A Sectional 38
Championship Game
At South Adams
Player    FGM-A    FTM-A    PF    TP
James Blackmon, Jr.    7-14    2-4    5    16
Kenny Mullen    4-16    2-4    4    10
Evan Blackmon    5-15    3-4    5    13
Eric Sorg    2-8    0-0    3    6
Jaylon Smith    3-5    0-2    1    6
Kameron Mack    4-8     1-2    4    9
James Knapke    2-7    0-0    1    4
DeAngelo Fincher    0-1    0-0    0    0
Dwight Richards    0-1    0-0    1    0
Kendrick Mullen    1-1    0-0    5    2
Michael Rogers    1-2    0-0    0    2
Collin Stuerzenberger    0-1    0-0    1    0
TOTALS    29-79    8-16    30    68

Player    FGM-A    FTM-A    PF    TP
Cameron Gerber    6-10    11-14    1    26
Chandler Okey    3-10    2-3    4    9
Michael Vanderkolk    6-11    7-10    1    19
Jordan Leising    0-1    1-2    2    1
Keith Cochran    4-7    3-4    5    11
Michael Pearson    4-4    4-9    3    12
Price Kyle    0-0    2-2    2    2
Seth Thompson    0-0    0-0    0    0
Chandler Prible    0-0    0-0    0    0
Matthew Sturgeon    0-0    0-0    0    0
Dillon Myers    0-0    0-0    0    0
Jacob McKinley    0-0    0-0    0    0
TOTALS    23-43    30-44    18    80

Bishop Luers (17-5)    13    12    24    19    –    68
Bluffton (16-6)    23    22    14    21    –    80
Three-point Goals: Luers 2-19 (J. Blackmon  0-4, Mullen 0-2, E. Blackmon 0-3, Sorg 2-7, Knapke 0-2, Fincher 0-1), Bluffton 4-7 (Gerber 3-4, Okey 1-2, Leising 0-1). Rebounds: Luers 40 (E. Blackmon 10, Smith 6, Mack 6), Bluffton 43 (Okey 7, Vanderkolk 6, Cochran 6, Pearson 6, Gerber 5). Turnovers: Luers 8, Bluffton 17. Technicals: Luers bench 2.
Officials: Scott West, Mike McGriff, David Christian.