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Bearcats top Lowell 51-45 in regular season finale

The Greater South Shore Conference. | Mark Smith~Sun-Times Media

The Greater South Shore Conference. | Mark Smith~Sun-Times Media

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LOWELL (9-12) 9 - 9 - 12 - 15 == 45

WHEELER (12-9) 14 - 7 - 17 - 13 == 51

2-19-13 @ Union Township

LOWELL (45) Billy Barker 2-0-5, Spenser Kersey 1-3-5, Zach Van Hook 10-6-26, Eric Zukauskas 4-0-8, Brandon Cory 0-1-1, Jordan Hansen 0-0-0. TOTALS: 17 (10-15) 45.

WHEELER (51) Drew Heinold 1-2-5, Jeremy Truchan 5-1-12, Austin Greiner 2-3-7, James Graf 2-3-7, James Miller 2-0-4, Kevin Barnes 4-0-12, Alek Todorovic 2-0-4. TOTALS: 18 (9-16) 51.

FREE THROWS: LOWELL (10-16, 62.5%) Van Hook 6-10, Kersey 3-4, Cory 1-2; WHEELER (9-16, 56.2%) Graf 3-6, Geinier 3-4, Heinold 2-2, Truchan 1-2, Barnes 0-2.

REBOUNDS: LOWELL (23) Zukauskus 14, Van Hook 4, KJersey 3, Hansen, Cory; WHEELER (22) Graf 7, Truchen 5, Barnes 2, Grenier Todorovic 3, Heinold 2, Todorovic 2, Miller.

ASSISTS: LOWELL (6) Barker 2, Van Hook, Kersey, Cory, Hansen; WHEELER (13) Heinold 6, Truchen 4, Graf 2, Miller.

FOULED OUT: WHEELER (1) Kevin Barnes (4th Q) 1:51 left.

3-GOALS: LOWELL (1) Billy Barker; WHEELER (6) Kevin Barnbes 4, , Drew Heinold, Jeremy Truchan.

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Updated: March 10, 2013 8:11PM



UNION TOWNSHIP — Since everyone obtains entry into the Indiana High School Athletic Association with a blind draw, it suggests that none of the 20-22 regular season games matter.

But the last game can make you worry.

After a month of playing well and challenging Northwest Indiana’s top 4A teams, Lowell was surprised on the last day of the 2013 season 51-45 on Senior Night at Wheeler.

Lowell played hard but the Bearcats (12-9) played harder and a hustling effort earned a 51-45 upset in Lowell’s final regular season performance.

Both sides may have had other things on their sminds.

Lowell was scheduled to open the state playoffs late Tuesday night against Lake Centra (12-8). Wheeler was to begin the Class 2A Wheeler Sectional Tuesday against 2A No. 4 Bishop Noll (17-4).

Lowell’s 1-of-17 shooting from three-point range held the score down, but the Bearcats passing effort wore down the Devils as Wheeler held a small lead throughout the second half.

“It’s always good when you can beat a 4A school,” said Wheeler coach Tom Johnson.

“We have to come to play harder than this,” said Lowell coach Nate Richie. “This was a big deal for them. They made some shots and we didn’t.”

Lowell led 2-0 and 7-6 and that was it. Wheeler, from the Greater South Shore Conference, ran off eight points in a row to lead 14-7.

The Devils rallied to tie the game 24-24, but Kevin Barnes sank a three-point shot to spark a 14-4 stretch which put the home team ahead 38-28 in the final minute of the third quarter.

The Devils closed the lead to 45-43 on consecutive buckets by Billy Barker, Zack Van Hook and Eric Zukaukas, the final hoop with with 2:30 left.

With 2:01 to go, Van Hook scored and was fouled but missed the free throw. Wheeler’s James Graf sank two foul shots with 55 seconds to play to make it 49-45.

Van Hook scored 26 points shooting an unoffical 10-of-25 from the field.

“I thought we did a good job on him for three quarters,” said Johnson, who spent nine years coaching Crown Point High School. “And then he showed why he’s one of the best players in the state. I thought there were times he scored baskets where we were doing a good job on him.

“He can shoot it, he can put it on the floor and he can score with his back to the basket. When he back cuts, you can just throw it up to the basket.

“Sometimes if you’re in the right spot it doesn’t make any difference.”

Wheeler thought it had a chance against Bishop Noll in this week’s sectional. Bowman Academy was the favroite but Wheeler can’t see Bowman until the Saturday championship.

“Our kids have gotten to a place where they don’t back down,” Johnson said.

I can’t swear it was a factor in the game but a group of about 40-50 Wheeler students who showed up dressed in green and orange to cheer on the Bearcat boys helped the home team win.

“They just like our kids,” said Johnson of the group that shows up as a fan block for all Wheeler games. “It’s not that we’re so good. They just like us. I’ve got a pretty good relationship with most of them. That fluctuates from year to year.”

This was another game that Lowell might have won with eight or nine varsity players. Just having six players is a problem they accept.

“I don’t think so,” said Richie when asked about players coming up from the junior varsity who can help in 4A Sectional 1. “We pretty much have to go with what we have.”

Lowell made just 17 of 51 shots and was impatient at times. With just six players in the rotation, Lowell can’t allow the game to speed up, and they have to make posessions last a long time.

“We just didn’t make a lot of shots,” said Richie, who understood that this game had to be forgotten quickly.

“We’ve got to have a great effort for 32 minutes Tuesday (against Lake Central).”

DEVIL NOTES: Wheeler was dressed in United States National Guard uniforms for the Senior Night game.

The National Guard selects schools to wear the special uniforms in selected games to promote the guard and honor its service.

Uniformed guard members and students unfurled a giant American flag over the basketball floor before the game as the National Anthem was played.

“They asked us,” said Wheeler coach Tom Johnson. “I thought it was quite an honor. No, we don’t get to keep the uniforms. The way we played, I wish we could keep them until the end of the season.”

The game was somewhat of a Crown Point reunion as Johnson, a nine-year boys coach at Crown Point. Tom May, CP’s girls coach of 25 years (1983-2007), was one of three referees.

Lowell’s athletic director Patti McCormack and assistant AD Mike Magley, both former varsity coaches, also were in attendance.

Lowell finished the season with a 9-12 record and eight of those losses were by 10 points or fewer. Six of the defeats were by five points or less.

Sophomore forward Eric Zukauskas grabbed an unofficial total of 14 rebounds against Wheeler, his top board game of the season.

The winner of Tuesday’s Lowell-Lake Central quarterfinal has the advantage of playing at 6 p.m. Friday night at Gary West Side.



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