Free throws

Twin Lakes' Gage Businger steps to the free throw line.

MONTICELLO — Classic.

Twin Lakes head coach Kent Adams used that word to describe his team’s 57-53 double-overtime victory Friday over Class 3A Sectional 20 favorite Western.

“It was just a classic. We’ve had them before with Western. We lost to them in double-overtime one year at Frankfort when they were highly-ranked and we were .500. The third game playing each other and beating a team is really hard,” Adams said. “The clutch shots we were able to hit to get the lead were big and it’s a testament to our kids. Our experience was huge and that was able to carry us through.”

Twin Lakes (20-4), which built a 45-32 lead after nine straight points from junior Clayton Bridwell, had to dodge several Panther (17-7) bullets to get to the second extra session.

“I talked with my dad last night and we talked about not settling for jump shots and needing to take the ball to the basket. He is a smart man and played at the next level, so I try to listen to him,” Bridwell said. “We have been working our butts off in practice and thinking about how we need to improve to beat Western. Coach Adams had us prepared and our defense locked them up. We practice these late-game situations every day. We were able to stay composed to get the win.”

Bridwell finished with a game-high 18 points and went 8-10 from the charity stripe.

The Indians led 49-46 with 44.5 seconds left in regulation but Western junior Parker Dean pulled down three straight offensive rebounds. The third with less than four seconds left was kicked out to Evan Kretz, who buried a three-pointer from the top of the key to force OT.

“When they came back, I would have liked to see us handle their pressure better. We didn’t keep attacking. When we got the ball in the middle of their defense we didn’t keep going to the basket. I wanted to turn to the basket, but we didn’t get it done,” Adams explained. “When you give up offensive rebounds, nothing good is going to happen. Usually that’s the best time to shoot a three because everyone is looking at the ball. The Kretz kid made some huge, huge shots there.”

Kretz finished with 12 points while Nathaniel Liddell also had 12. Dean added seven points and five offensive rebounds.

Both teams failed to score on their opening possessions of the first overtime and Western head coach Mike Lewis decided to take the air out of the ball. The Panthers dropped to the basket but were fouled with 1.4 seconds left under the basket. The ally-oop pass to Dean deflected off his finger-tips giving Twin Lakes new life as the game went to the second overtime.

“We wanted to make sure we got the last shot to win it, but it just didn’t work out,” Western assistant head coach Greg Unger said. “We knew our guys would play hard until the end, but give Twin Lakes credit because they played really, really well.”

Free throws by Lewis Dellinger and Bridwell gave Twin Lakes a two-point lead at the 3:22 mark in the second overtime. Dean again tied the game with two free throws of his own. Kahari Jackson took the ball to the basket on Twin Lakes’ next two possessions and made two free throws.

The Panthers' Kyle Sanders, who became Western’s all-time leading scorer in the loss, missed a 10-footer with less than 10 seconds left and Gage Businger out-fought three taller Panthers. Two free throws by Businger, who had 10 points, and Jackson sealed the TL win.

“We got a couple key rebounds and made some clutch free throws. I’m sure our guys get under-estimated because we are undersized, but if they just go after it that’s all we can do,” Adams said.

Indians senior Noah Johnston also finished in double-figures with 11 points and six boards.

The Panthers had handily beaten the Indians twice this season, especially in the Hoosier Conference championship Feb. 19, 60-43, in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates.

“We just wanted it. We were the underdogs and just wanted it more than they did,” Jackson, who had 11 of his 17 points in the first half, said. “We lost to them twice but that gave us a big motivation and that mentality that we wouldn’t quit.

"We were able to stay calm and poised. Coach Adams puts us in those situations every day in practice and we were able to do what we do and play ball.”

According to Businger, the two previous games just set the stage for Friday night’s upset win.

“The first time, circumstances were difficult because we played Northwestern the night before and really didn’t prepare a bunch for Western. After that game we prepped and prepped, but just came out flat in the second game and put us on our heels for the first few minutes,” Businger said. “This time we knew we had to get off to a solid start and if we kept the point margin to seven, we knew we had a chance.”

The Twin Lakes senior finished with 10 points and explained that the first overtime was a unique experience as Western held the ball for the majority of the four minutes.

“The first overtime was crazy because we sat there on defense for almost the entire overtime. Thankfully, we were able to dodge a bullet to get to the second overtime,” Businger noted. “Winning the tip and getting the early lead in the second overtime really gave us a spark and we started to believe.”

Twin Lakes’ 3-2 zone defense kept the game close. Western was only able to shoot 39 percent from the field and struggled to get into an offensive rhythm.

“The main thing was that they had two players that don’t look to shoot, so we wanted to get out on their shooters and make them drive to the interior of the zone,” Businger said.

Peru (16-7), winners of the first sectional semifinal, 58-50, over Maconaquah, is up next for Twin Lakes.

“I think our guys realize that as nice as this was, this wasn’t the sectional championship, and I think our kids know that. It is going to take a great effort (Saturday),” Adams said. “It’s going to take focus, energy and intelligent play. Peru has weapons.”

The Indians defeated Peru, 55-47, on Feb. 9.

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