Chesterton, Munster fall in MC Regional
MICHIGAN CITY — Both Chesterton and Munster’s boys basketball teams experienced exceptionally solid seasons behind a strong cores of seniors, which gave each squad a legitimate hope for a shot at regional championship and a semistate berth.
Unfortunately, neither local team was able to put together a strong enough effort in its respective semifinal game during Saturday’s Class 4A Michigan City Regional.
Chesterton battled Penn closely from the opening tip only to fall short 49-42 in the first contest, while Northridge exploded out of gate against Munster with the first nine points and then pushed back a late Mustang charge before prevailing 62-53.
Chesterton (19-7), which defeated Portage, Michigan City and Valparaiso in succession to reach the regional and won its first sectional since 1987, was led by senior Jake Wadding’s 18-point effort and 11 points from freshman guard Travis Grayson.
The Trojans stayed within striking range in the fourth quarter, falling behind 40-34 with 2:24 left in the game before pulling as close as one point with 53 seconds left and were behind by just four with 32 seconds left before Penn would close the door for good.
“We had some good looks, but we just didn’t hit enough shots,” third-year coach Marc Urban said. “I felt that the game could have changed if we had just gotten ahead, but I am proud of my kids and proud of the way they battled. Nobody expected us to be here. They’re such a fun group to coach.
“We had a lot of good looks around the rim and lot of good shots from three-point land, but a lot of them just did not fall. I thought we did a good job guarding them and handling ourselves around the offensive boards. These kids played their hearts out, and our community really rallied around us.”
Penn (23-3) was led by 17 points apiece from Noah Applegate and Drew Lutz. Applegate finished with a double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Applegate, the all-time leading scorer in Penn’s boys basketball history, now has 1,674 points in his career. Lutz has scored 1,043 career points.
Kegan Hoskins chipped in with 12 points and was specifically deadly at the charity stripe, converting six of his eight foul shots down the stretch to help the Kingsmen seal the contest.
“Penn ran and trapped us a little bit, and we had some tough turnovers which are part of the game,” Urban said. “Penn is very big, and they are relentless on the boards. It’s one of their strengths.”
Munster (22-5), which defeated Lake Central, Crown Point and Lowell in succession for its sectional title, was led by 16 points from senior guard Jevon Morris, and 11 points from sophomore Luka Balac. The Mustangs fell behind 18-10 after the first quarter and fought the rest of the way in vain to come back.
“We knew they (Northfield) was solid,” Munster coach Mike Hackett said. “We knew they had good guards and that they had a solid big man. Did we expect them to come out and make that many shots that early in the game? No. Sometimes you just have to take your hat off to the other team.
“They came out hotter than could be and made us adjust so that we got out after the guards a little more, and then they started to go to work with the big guy. It was pick your poison: Let them hit threes or let their big guy beat you. They played confident and got off to the start that they needed.”
Northridge (19-8) was led by junior forward Alex Stauffer – who averaged 11 points per game during the season and was disabled for part of the season with a broken foot, exploded for 28 points and 12 rebounds – shooting a sizzling 10-for-12 from the floor.
“Their big kid only missed two shots all day,” Hackett said. “I knew he was good, but I didn’t think he would score 28 against us with two relatively good sized kids on him. 22-5. We ran into a buzzsaw to a team that won 13 games in row. They were well prepared and played extremely well.”
Hackett, a Michigan City alum who is in his 19th season at the Mustang helm, said he was proud of his kids – especially the senior class – who captured a Christmas tournament championship, a Northwest Crossroads Conference Championship and a sectional title.
“These kids got back to winning conferences and sectionals,” he said. “We told the younger kids who are coming back that we expect them to keep us here. I am extremely proud of my guys because they never gave up. They got it down to a two-possession game with two minutes to go.
“We had a couple shots rim in and out. If we could cut it down to a one-possession game, maybe. All we did was hustle, scrap and fight and made it interesting at the end.”
In Saturday night’s final, Penn prevailed 74-72 over Northridge to win the regional, its first in 13 years.
Class 4A Michigan City Regional
Penn 49, Chesterton 42
Northridge 62, Munster 53
Penn 74, Northridge 72