Blitz of steals, dunks, rebounds, fast-break points spark high-flying Saints in history-making romp against Southwood
By Al Stilley
Hoosier Hysteria had never seen anything like it.
Wind gusts of more than 50 miles per hour outside Gainbridge Fieldhouse while inside Saturday morning, a hurricane struck now known as the 2022 IHSAA Class 1A state boys’ basketball champion Lutheran High School
All the first-time state champion Saints did was dismantle a very solid and well-prepared Southwood team from Wabash and run all the way to a record-setting 97-66 triumph Saturday.
“All gas, no brakes – that’s Lutheran basketball,” Saints mastermind Remus Woods immediately proclaimed afterward while facing Saints supporters.
Trailing 17-12 early in the second quarter, the Saints began operating at warp speed.
In slightly more than six minutes, Lutheran set a state tourney record of 36 points in one quarter while the Knights mustered only 16 points. The Saints finished the half on a 33-9 run, hitting 10-of-13 shots from the floor and forcing Southwood into 10 turnovers.
The No. 8 Saints (20-7) kept pushing in the third, outscoring the unranked Knights, 32-23. Amazingly, the Saints’ 68 combined points in the second and third quarters were two more points than the Knights (15-13) produced for the whole game.
When sophomore Cayden Loescher hit a fast-break layup for a 91-57 lead with less than four minutes left, the Saints broke the 1A state final record of 89 points by Morristown against Southwood in 2018. The final 97 points by the Saints ties the all-time state finals record set by the great Crispus Attucks team with Oscar Robertson in 1955 against Gary Roosevelt.
“We really wanted to push the tempo of the game,” coach Woods said afterward. “We knew throughout the tournament, we hadn’t really let go and run, so we wanted to score a lot more points today (Saturday). I never imagined 97, we just wanted to play like champions.”
The Saints also won this one for the students, fans and community and the program’s first state title after being a runner-up in 2008 with coach Tom Finchum, now athletic director. The Saints liked the idea of playing close to home in downtown Indy.
“It was just getting back downtown and proving we are good enough to win a state championship,” contended senior transfer Durray Smith.
Mayor Joe Hogsett was among Indy-based fans who wore a politically correct Lutheran t-shirt for the first game Saturday.
“We didn’t want to let the students or the community down,” said Kameron Patterson, a member of Lutheran’s back-to-back 1A state championship football teams. “We know how to perform on the stage like this, and how to perform in practice – you practice like the game.”
FIVE IN DOUBLE FIGURES
The Saints showed they could dominate a state final championship in a way never seen before in Class 1A.
Challenged early by Southwood’s fullcourt trapping defense, the Saints fell behind. The Saints overcame it by grabbing rebounds and passing the ball downcourt before the Knights could even begin to set up their defense. The Saints defense, led by LJ Ward, eventually came up with 14 steals and forced 10 more turnovers by the Knights. Ward had a game-high six steals, seven assists, and four blocked shots and was the catalyst for the Saints’ record-breaking surge.
“He plays really fast; he’s one of the heartbeats of the team,” Woods praised, “He plays with a lot of emotion.”
Loescher, who improved dramatically from mid-season, led five Saints in double-figure scoring with 22 points, hitting 10 of 12 field goal tries, and a game-high 10 rebounds. The sharpshooting Smith scored 21 points, connecting on five of nine 3-point shots. Ward had 17 points, including three jams that delighted Saints fans. Patterson, a 6-5 senior, came up with 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists in one of the best games of his career. Brother Kaiden Patterson added 10 points and three blocks.
Overall, the Saints connected on 37 of 73 field goals (58.6 percent), including six of 21 3-point tries.
Lutheran out-scored Southwood 43-8 on fast-break points, 60-40 in the paint, and 13-7 on second-chance points.
Defensively, the Saints handcuffed the Knights who connected on 25 of 67 shots (37.3 percent) and only one of 11 from 3-point range.
Eleven Saints played Saturday, including DeVaun Jones, RiaShaun McHaney, Christopher Ervin, Cole Hess, and Cameron McHaney.
Looking at the path to the state title, Woods remarked, “It’s tough getting out of the South. If any coach tells you it’s an easy ride through the South … it’s just tough. A lot of meat-grinder games that prepared us for a championship.”
Also during a break after the first quarter, Lutheran theology teacher and campus pastor Robet Armao received a Champion of Education award that recognized a prominent educator from each of the high schools playing Saturday for state championships.
The Saints also recalled exactly when the season turned around and put them on a path to the program’s first state championship.
In early February, the Saints (then 9-7) fell at 4A Perry Meridian in overtime, 48-41 for the Saints’ fourth straight loss. It prompted a few player meetings among themselves.
Smith revealed it felt like the Saints were going downhill at that time. Ward believed the Saints were feeling pressure and weren’t playing hard enough. Loescher said the meetings finally pulled the team together.
Patterson explained, “I think we kind of fixed our attitude, we had become very emotional after every mistake. We progressed because we stopped crying over things we couldn’t control.”
Ward grinned Saturday and said, “Coach made us figure it out.”
The result? An 11-game winning streak and celebration of a state championship.
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(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY STEVE PAGE)
Lutheran senior Aiden Alialy (3) fires away at the goal during Saturday’s championship game. Alialy, one of five seniors, added six points, five rebounds, and two steals to the Saint’s win.
Lutheran sophomore Cayden Loescher puts up a running one-hander to keep the ball away from Southwood defender Bryce Wilcox. Loescher led Lutheran’s balanced attack by scoring 22 points.
After cutting down the net, senior Kaiden Patterson celebrates by waving it for the happy Lutheran fans.
LJ Ward leaves two Southwood defenders stunned as the Lutheran sophomore literally flies to the basket during Saturday’s Class A championship game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Lutheran defenders Aiden Alialy (3), Kameron Patterson (5) and Kaiden Patterson apply pressure to Southwood's Nathan Lehner.
Lutheran coach Remus Woods addresses his players during a timeout in Saturday’s championship game.
Lutheran players, coaches, and cheerleaders celebrate the Saints’ first boys’ basketball 1A state championship Saturday after defeating Southmont at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
The Saints be praised for championship game records!
The following records were set by Lutheran against Southwood in the IHSAA Class 1A state championship game Saturday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse:
New Team Records: 1A
• Most combined points: 163, 97 by Lutheran, 66 for Southwood
• Most Points, 97 by Lutheran
• Largest Margin of Victory: 31 by Lutheran
• Most Points in a Quarter: 36 by Lutheran
• Most Field Goals Attempted: 73 by Lutheran
• Most Combined Free Throws Attempted: 57, Lutheran 29,
• Most Assists: 27 by Lutheran vs. Southwood
• Most Combined Blocked Shots: 17, 11 by Lutheran, 6 for
• Most Points in a Half: 52 by Lutheran (2nd Half)
• Most Combined Points in a Half: 92, 52 by Lutheran, 40 by
Southwood (2nd half)
Tied Team Records: 1A
• Most Points: 97 by Lutheran vs. Southwood; Single Class
Championship: Crispus Attucks vs. Gary Roosevelt 1955
• Most Field Goals Made: 37 by Lutheran
• Most Combined Assists: 27 by Lutheran, 10 by Southwood,
Individual Records: 1A
• Highest Field Goal Percentage: LJ Ward, Lutheran, .833
Tied Individual Record: 1A
• Most Steals: LJ Ward, Lutheran, 6