(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY DEIDRE BARNETT)
By Al Stilley
A comeback for the ages propelled underdog Lutheran over Loogootee and that same defensive intensity against Rock Creek Academy produced the Saints’ first IHSAA Semistate championship Saturday since 2008 at Washington.
The Saints (19-7) advance to the IHSAA Class A state championship game against unranked Southwood (15-12) at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Lutheran is seeking the program’s first state title, having lost their only previous trip in 2008 to Triton.
“Defense and fearless” were the words that Lutheran coach Remus Woods used to describe the 2022-2023 Saints.
They lived up to those words in the final minutes Saturday morning against No. 4 Loogootee. Trailing by 10 points with very few minutes left, the No. 8 Saints ratcheted up their defensive intensity. They trimmed the lead in half within 40 seconds.
“It was desperation at that point,” Woods later recalled.
The winning points came on a 3-pointer by sharpshooting senior Durray Smith and layup by sophomore Cayden Loescher, whose late-season improvement has sparked the Saints’ drive.
The final count was: Lutheran 67, Loogootee 66. A last-second three-quarter shot by LJ Ward was waved off by officials.
Smith had a team-high 16 points on five of 12 3-pointers with Kam Patterson adding 14 points and six rebounds, and Loescher 11 points. Ward had five rebounds and four steals.
Between games, the Saints stayed at nearby Barr-Reeve High School where they rested, ate and had a short shootaround before returning to Washington’s famed Hatchet House.
The Saints never trailed in the nightcap in defeating a much taller Rock Creek team, 55-47.
The quick-handed Saints had 16 steals in the nightcap. Loescher led with 14 points and eight rebounds. Smith added 11 points and senior Aiden Alialy grabbed five rebounds.
“Our kids really got after it,” Woods said.
The fourth-year coach continued, “We play tough opponents during the season and that prepares us for the playoffs.”
The Saints take a 10-game winning streak Saturday morning into Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Lutheran’s KJ Patterson (34) jams against Rock Hill in Washington Semistate championship game Saturday night. The Saints won, 55-47.
Lutheran’s Durray Smith scores on a layup against Rock Hill in semistate title game at Washington. Smith’s free throws with less than three seconds left enabled the Saints to defeat Loogootee earlier.
Cayden Loescher (10) scores as the Lutheran bench and crowd roars in closely fought win by the Saints, 67-66 against Loogootee Saturday.