Senior staff writer
All scrappy Roncalli needed was just a few more points in its first semifinal appearance in the Marion County boys basketball tourney Friday at Southport Fieldhouse.
The Rebels evenly battled 4A No.17 Pike in many ways but came up short, 48-41.
Coach Michael Wantz’s charges fought against the Red Devils (11-3) despite being without injured Christian Stewart for most of the second half. Pike’s rugged defense held 6-10 Collin Sonderman to nine points and seven rebounds.
Nonetheless, the determined Rebels (10-3) held Pike to a mere 48 points on 37 percent shooting and outrebounded the Red Devils – factors that the Rebels normally could take to the bank.
“They always say you can’t beat a team like Pike by scoring 50 points, but we could have,” Wantz said. “We have to figure out a way to avoid those long scoring droughts.”
Wantz was referring to a crucial five-minute drought in the final stanza. Sonderman powered underneath to give the Rebels a 36-34 lead with 5:22 left. The Rebels did not score again until Reese McGinsie canned a 3-point shot, the team’s first after 13 misses, to cut the lead to 45-39 with only 35 seconds to go.
Pike’s quickness and length on defense along with bothersome full-court pressure throughout the second half doomed Roncalli.
Roncalli trailed 26-18 at the half but rallied and trimmed the lead to 34-32 after three quarters.
“We tried to set our offense higher and wider to get more spacing against them,” Wantz said. ‘We did get some back cuts and scored. Our third game in four days might have worn us down a bit. Their pressure might have added to that.”
Connor Gore, 10 points, was Roncalli’s only double-figure scorer. Meek and Keegan Owen each grabbed seven rebounds.
“The guys know we were right there with Pike, but we know we need to get better,” Wantz said. “We have a lot to look forward to.”
Roncalli reached the finals by defeating Perry Meridian (4-7) and Beech Grove (7-5).
Franklin Central (7-3), Southport (1-9) and Lutheran (6-5) dropped their first-round games.
Pike, coached by former Center Grove coach Bill Zych, handed 4A No. 1 North Central their first loss of the season, 71-64, for the Red Devils’ third consecutive county crown.
Key upcoming games (7:30 p.m., unless indicated): Wednesday, Beech Grove at Southport, Perry Meridian at Greenwood; Friday, Decatur Central at Greenwood (6 p.m.); Saturday, Danville at Beech Grove, Roncalli at Center Grove, Bloomington South at Franklin Central, Triton Central at Lutheran, Columbus North at Perry Meridian, Terre Haute North at Southport.