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  • Val T.

Hines scores 23, but Lewis Cass beats Winamac in sectional semi

Bentle adds 11, J. Malchow 9, but Kings rally from 9 down


BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

WALTON — L.J. Hillis scored nine of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, including the go-ahead free throw with 1:44 left, to lift the Lewis Cass boys basketball team to a 50-48 win over Winamac in a Class 2A, Sectional 36 semifinal at Lewis Cass Friday.

Bryce Rudd added 12 for the Kings, who improved to 9-13. Lewis Cass never led until the fourth quarter and never led by more than three points.

Lewis Cass will play Wabash in the sectional final. Wabash beat Pioneer 40-22 in the other semifinal.

Brendan Hines led Winamac with 23 points, but his potential game-winning 3-pointer bounced long off the rim, and Lewis Cass’ Brody Hillis rebounded as time expired.

Jayse Bentle scored 11, and John Malchow had nine for Winamac (12-13) in their prep finales. The Warriors hit 10 3-pointers, one of which was Justin Potthoff’s halfcourt shot at the first-quarter buzzer.

Winamac has not won a sectional title since 2015. Lewis Cass now holds a 2-1 record all-time against Winamac in sectional games, all of which have been held since 2020.

“They are an athletic team,” Winamac coach Mike Springer said of Lewis Cass. “They’ve got real good length, and their kids are strong as well. I think the game got real physical late in the third quarter and throughout the fourth quarter, and I think that really played into their hands a little more.

“But we knew it was going to be a physical game. We knew that they were going to come in and try to beast us a little bit, and I thought our kids responded well.”

Hines turned down a ball screen and raised up over Trey Johnson and hit his fifth 3-pointer with 1:59 left to tie it at 46.

Hillis then drew Will Malchow’s fifth foul and split a pair from the line to give Lewis Cass the lead back. Ethan Burgess replaced Will Malchow and got a defensive rebound after L.J. Hillis missed his second free throw.

Potthoff missed on a drive from the right wing, but Burgess got an offensive rebound and kicked back out to Bentle.

Winamac continued to work the perimeter, eventually burning a minute off the clock.

Hines then used a screen from Burgess to get open at the top of the key and drove to the lane, but his floater just spun off the rim. Burgess got another offensive rebound but missed a two-footer.

Brody Hillis rebounded. Hines went down. He got up touching his nose. Play continued.

Still with a one-point lead, Lewis Cass started to work the clock. L.J. Hillis drove from two steps beyond the volleyball line to the right elbow, but Hines stripped him. Brody Hillis recovered the loose ball near the sideline, and as he began to pass, officials awarded Lewis Cass a timeout with 22.0 seconds left.

Lewis Cass tried to inbound, but they couldn’t, and they called another timeout.

Kolten Young, a junior reserve who scored all seven of his points in the second half, then hit two free throws with 18.2 seconds left.

John Malchow then drove to the basket. He got a step on L.J. Hillis and then encountered Brody Hillis at the rim. His banker attempt was in the cylinder and bounced out, but Brody Hillis was called for a foul.

John Malchow hit two free throws with 7.3 seconds left to make it 49-48.

Hines fouled L.J. Hillis 6.3 seconds left. L.J. Hillis hit the first free throw but missed the second, and Potthoff rebounded and called timeout.

Winamac ran a give-and-go with Burgess passing back to Hines while Potthoff screened Lewis Cass’ Trey Johnson, whose defensive assignment was Hines.

Potthoff’s screen helped Hines rush the ball to within 22 feet. He then launched over Brody Hillis with Winamac’s season at stake.

“We’ve had some kids really step up for our team,” Springer said. “I can’t say enough about Brendan and our seniors. I think one thing that’s really helped us this year was the emergence of our senior leadership. As the season went along, those guys really stopped looking for their own stuff and really started relying on their teammates, and that’s not easy because you don’t know what’s being said in the hallways at school or what’s being said at home – keeping points here and points there. I think the key to our season was the fact that our seniors made the guys around them better.”

Winamac’s first four field goals were treys – two each from Hines and Bentle – as they jumped out to a 12-4 lead.

A Hillis 3-point play and a Johnson pullup 15-footer cut the lead to three, but Hines hit from the left elbow.

Lewis Cass appeared ready to play for the final shot of the quarter, but John Malchow stripped L.J. Hillis, and Potthoff recovered the loose ball and nailed a 43-foot missile at the buzzer.

Winamac would build the lead to as big as nine on two occasions in the second quarter, the last at 22-13 on a Will Malchow left-handed finish from 10 feet with 5:49 left in the half.

Lewis Cass would cut the lead to five, but Bentle and Hines would again hit from distance to maintain a 28-20 halftime lead.

“Our game plan to begin with was to run them off the 3-point line,” Lewis Cass first-year coach Eric Branz said. “They don’t have a lot of guys that shoot a very good percentage, but when it comes sectional time, you hit shots, and you’re going to win games. We were late coming off double staggers. We were just stuck in concrete sometimes. … We just came out refocused. We really didn’t adjust much. We really just got back to who we really are defensively, making sure we’re more aware.”

The lead was still 32-24 when Hines rimmed in a 15-footer, but Rudd, Young and Johnson combined to score the next 17 Lewis Cass points. Hines had all three Winamac field goals in the third quarter as they stayed ahead 41-39.

John Malchow scored off a driving spin move to increase the lead to four, but L.J. Hillis scored on a post turnaround in the lane, then a driving layup and then a 3-point play on another post turnaround in the lane.

Lewis Cass had their first lead at 46-43.

Springer said L.J. Hillis “can make things happen.”

“He’s just a tough guard, especially at 6-4. We tried to keep it out of his hands as much as possible. We were trapping him. I thought we did a good job on that. He could have got more probably if he’d have made some shots. But I was just really pleased with our kids’ defensive effort, even though he got 23.”

Lewis Cass 50, Winamac 48

LEWIS CASS (50) (9-13)

Trey Johnson 2 0-0 4, Brennan Deeter 2 0-0 4, Bryce Rudd 5 0-0 12, Brody Hillis 0 0-0 0, L.J. Hillis 7 8-10 23, Kolten Young 1 5-6 7, Owen Cotner-Graves 0 0-0 0

TEAM: 17 13-16 50

WINAMAC (48) (12-13)

Brendan Hines 8 2-3 23, Justin Potthoff 1 0-2 3, Will Malchow 1 0-0 2, Jayse Bentle 3 2-2 11, John Malchow 2 4-6 9, Ethan Burgess 0 0-0 0, Ayden Jimenez 0 0-0 0

TEAM: 15 8-13 48

Three-point field goals:

Lewis Cass 3 (Rudd 2, L.J. Hillis),

Winamac 10 (Hines 5, Bentle 3, J. Malchow, Potthoff)

Total fouls: Lewis Cass 14, Winamac 20

Fouled out: W. Malchow (WIN), 1:44, fourth

Turnovers: Lewis Cass 10, Winamac 11

Score by quarters

Lewis Cass 9 11 19 11 50

Winamac 17 11 13 7 48



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