Andrean's Nick Davidson grabs a rebound in front of Lowell's Spenser Kersey during the first quarter on Friday at Lowell. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media
Andrean 39, Lowell 36
ANDREAN (14-1) 7 - 14 - 6 - 12 == 39
LOWELL (7-10) 9 - 8 - 17 - 2 == 36
2-1-13, in Lowell
ANDREAN (39) Nick Davidson 3-5-11, Colin Wojcik 2-1-5, Skyler Moss 7-3-17, Sam Toporski 1-0-3, DJ Gonzalez 1-0-3, Ramon Guerrero 0-0-0, Danny Keilman 0-0-0. TOTALS: 14 (9-12) 39
LOWELL (36) Billy Barker 5-0-15, Spenser Kersey 3-0-6, Zach Van Hook 3-4-10, Brandon Cory 2-0-5, Eric Zukauskas 0-0-0, Jayson Savich 0-0-0, Jordan Hansen 0-0-0. TOTALS: 13 (6-13) 36.
FREE THROWS: ANDREAN (9-12, 75%) Davidson 5-6, Wojcik 1-1, Moss 3-5; LOWELL (6-13, 46.1%) Barker 2-3, Van Hook 4-9, Kersey 0-1.
REBOUNDS: ANDREAN (16) Moss 8, Davidson 3, Toporski 3, Gonzalez, Ruberry; LOWELL (18) Van Hook 10, Zukauskas 3, Kersey 2, Cory 2, Barker.
ASSISTS: ANDREAN (6) Gonzalez 4, Davidson, Wojcik; LOWELL (6) Zukauskas 2, Barker, Kersey, Van Hook, Cory.
FOULED OUT: LOWELL (1) Spenser Kersey (4th Q) 7:21 left.
3-GOALS: ANDREAN (2) Sam Toporski, DJ Gonzalez; LOWELL (4) Billy Barker 3, Brandon Cory.
LOWELL — We’re back at the moral victory store and Lowell grabbed another shiny one Friday night.
No one expected Lowell to stay anywhere near Munster and Andrean in back-to-back games. Munster is 18-0 and No. 1 in the state in one poll. Andrean is 14-1 and ranked fourth in Class 3A.
For Lowell to lose at Munster 58-48 and then lose at home 39-36 to Andrean is a giant step forward for a team that lost 85-55 to Munster and 84-54 to Andrean last season.
But the moral victory store is a place you only shop at if you are below .500.
Lowell (7-10) needs to beat one of the bigger, better schools before the state tournament begins.
“Munster was a five point game with three minutes to go,” said Nate Richie. “We’re getting better. That’s all you can ask. And eventually, we’re going to pick one of these things off and Lowell will be the team everybody’s talking about.
“Our kids know now that Lowell can play with the best teams in the area, but at the same time, we’re doing a great job of fighting and putting ourselves in position to win but we fall short.
“They came back and that’s what state-ranked teams do, but we have a pretty good team ourselves and our kids know we put ourselves in position to play with the state-ranked teams.”
Lowell slowed the pace of the game from the start, weaving around the perimeter with juniors Zach Van Hook and Billy Barker plus new starter freshman dribbler Brandon Cory exchanging possession behind the three-point line.
No one led by more than two until Andrean’s 13-1 run in the second quarter pushed it to a 20-12 lead.
Barker sank a three-point shot to help close the game to 21-17 at the half in front of a small but lively crowd that included student sections from both schools.
The Devils’ zone defense sagged back inside the foul line many times, daring the 59ers to shoot three-point shots, something that usually is a strength for the 59ers.
The third quarter was a Lowell highlight and Spenser Kersey’s drive to the basket pushed the home team ahead 24-23 with 5:19 to go. Barker’s three-point shot upped the Lowell lead to 27-23 and consecutive baskets from Kersey and Barker upper the score to 31-27 as the home fans got louder and louder.
Then a rare play. Cory was near the time-line looking to lob the ball to a teammate near the basket. His toss was off and the 40 foot lob actually went in the basket for three points, giving the Devils their biggest lead of the game 34-27 with 1:10 left in the third quarter.
It was a stunning play that left the building in an uproar, ending the third quarter scoring and seeming to jolt the 59ers into a desperate mood.
The biggest play of the game came moments into the fourth quarter when 59er senior Colin Wojcik charged down the lane, knocking down Kersey, who had alreday picked up his fourth foul.
Many thought Kersey was positioned and standing still, but the referees didn’t see it that way and the Lowell center drew his fifth foul, leaving the game with 7:15 still left.
After that, the 59er forwards, led by 6-foot-4, 215-pound Skyler Moss, controlled play near the basket and a 10-0 run over three minutes put the visitors ahead 37-34 with 4:25 to go.
“It was a tough win,” said Moss, who played with a bandage (he called it three sprained fingers) on his left hand. “Came down to the last minute. A little unexpected but we pulled it out. We didn’t hit many threes like we usually do so our coach told us to push it inside. They fed me the ball and I made some shots.”
“When (Kersey) fouled out I had some more opportunities. He’s a big dude, too. Our coaches told us to just play better defense.”
Andrean coach Carson Cunningham, who was quite vocal during the game, seemed almost unbelievably mellow afterwards.
“You always enjoy a win,” he said. “I’m really proud of the effort we put in on the defensive end. Obviously, we couldn’t throw it in the ocean from the outside. Most nights, that’s not a big issue for us. Tonight it was.”
Andrean, which has only lost to Chesterton 68-57 on Jan. 16, held the ball against Lowell’s zone defense in the final minutes, missing a three point shot with 1:56 left and fumbling away a pass with 1:20 to go.
Lowell’s Van Hook, who was held to 10 points by a double-teaming Andrean defense, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:40 to go before Barker’s two free throws cut the lead to 37-36.
But Moss got behind Lowell’s full court press for a breakaway lay up and a 39-36 lead with 24 seconds to go, a play where Lowell could have fouled him but hesitated.
The Devils got the ball up the court where Cory missed a game-tying three point shot from the right corner, Barker missed another off the left wing and Zukauskas, who grabbed the ball inside the foul lane, tossed up a two-point shot at the buzzer that would not have been good enough even had it gone in.
In the and, as it was all night, Lowell had chances to win or tie but came up a little short.
“Skyler Moss played an impressive game both offensively and defensively,” said Cunningham. “Executing our defensive rotations and finishing at the basket. You’ve got to tip your cap to him.
“We just tried to ratchet up the pressure. The key to that is having the fellas buy in. Lowell was impressive They hit some tough 3s and played hard. We usually do better. We average 70 points a game. Tonight we were just off from the outside.”
Andrean double-teamed Van Hook, holding him to 10 points and 10 rebounds. At times, three players were chasing the 6-foot-4 junior, who averages 22 points a game. Barker, a 6-foot-3 junior, had a good shooting night and Cory, just 5-foot-8 and barely big enough to even be out there, played all 32 minutes for the second consecutive game.
Cory, who came up off the junior varsity after the season-ending injury to Aaron Hamm, doesn’t shoot much, but he is a skilled dribbler who allows Lowell to spread out on the floor.
With all that said, Lowell was only 6-of-13 from the foul line in the game and missed every field goal attempt in the fourth quarter. The Devils appeared to tire as they could use only two substitutes.
Lowell should have won this game, but it’s hard to fault them in another close loss to a top 10 team.
“We made a couple of mistakes and then we had some breakdowns and they went on an 8-0 run,” said Richie. “What ultimately it came down to is free throws. If we’d have knocked a few free throws down and you don’t let Moss get loose around the basket, you maybe win this thing.”
DEVIL NOTES: Friday’s game was a rough one for the officials. Softer touch fouls occasionally were called while some knockdowns were ignored on other occasions.
Neither coach commented publicly afterwards in a notable display of restraint.
Lowell junior forward Aaron Hamm is out for the year with a foot injury. The 6-foot-3 basketball-football regular was hurt after the Caston holiday tournament and is on crutches, leaving Lowell with a regular rotation of about seven players.
Kersey was honored at halftime with Mitch Leckrone, Tony Mauer George Field sand Bryan Thomas as all-conference (Northwest Crossroads Conference) all-stars.
Cross country senior Kyle Eller was honored with his state finalist team and as a first-team all-stater.
Lowell’s final home game is against Merrillville (14-1) on Tuesday Feb. 12 and the Devils play at Crown Point Saturday night Jan. 16. Merrillville edged Crown Point 60-59 last Friday.