INDIANAPOLIS – Round two of this season’s Lawrence Central-Lawrence North rivalry lived up to the hype. Lawrence North claimed the 101st Marion County Tournament title with a 51-46 win over Lawrence Central.
Unlike the first matchup, there was no team being caught off guard. Both teams were well aware of what was at stake tonight.
For Lawrence Central, this was a chance to make amends for several things. The Bears finished second in last year’s county championship game and were looking to finish the job this time. They also had a score to settle with Lawrence North after getting ran off their home floor, 83-73, back on Dec. 11.
For Lawrence North, this game was an opportunity to prove last December’s win was no fluke.
Lawrence North set the tone with their physicality and defense from the opening tip. Even though Lawrence Central playmakers Nijel Pack and Dre Davis got their points – they combined to score 38 – the dynamic duo had to earn every shot they took. Coming into Saturday’s championship game, Lawrence Central averaged 73.9 points per game. One of the most prolific scoring offenses in the state was limited to a season-low 46 points.
“They beat up on us the last two years, so we said, ‘We’re done with that, we’re taking over Lawrence,’” Senior F Tony Perkins said after the game. Perkins was once again the leader for this Wildcats team, finishing with a double-double (18 points and 10 rebounds).
The biggest factor that determined this game came down to rebounding. Lawrence North out-rebounded Lawrence Central, 27-20. Perkins and teammate DJ Hughes gobbled up nearly every missed shot and made some timely offensive rebounds that led to second-chance points. In a game where scoring was at a premium, Lawrence Central could not have allowed any extra possessions to the Wildcats.
Even with the slow start and struggles on the boards, Lawrence Central was still in good position to win. The Bears led by two at the end of the third quarter and were tied at 42 apiece with five minutes left. Lawrence North would outscore the Bears 9-4 the rest of the way.
Saturday’s county tournament title was even more special to Lawrence North head coach Jack Keefer. The hall of fame coach added another accolade to his storied career, surpassing former Warren Central and Southport head coach Carl Braden for the most county title wins by a head coach.
“It’s the best tournament in Indiana, so it’s special to win it again,” Keefer said following after clinching his record ninth county tournament title.
The Marion County Tournament (and most county tournaments across the state) serves as the unofficial halfway point of the season. With a month and half to go until sectionals begin, this Lawrence North team still thinks they have room to grow.
“I think we can go further,” Junior point guard Shamar Avance said after the game. “I’m looking at (this point) as it’s 0-0, and let’s start the journey all over again.”
“I feel like we can go all the way, but there’s still work to be done,” Perkins said.