By Dennis Glade
LOOGOOTEE — After two consecutive losses, the Loogootee boys' basketball team needed a strong performance to get back in the win column.
The Lions (15-4, 7-0 Blue Chip) defeated Washington Catholic (2-16, 1-7), 72-23, Tuesday at Jack Butcher Arena behind a balanced scoring attack, led by Matt Mathies¹ 18 points. Loogootee lost its previous two games to Southridge (13-3) and Orleans (9-9).
After a TJ Hill basket knotted the score at four, the Lions went on a 13-0 run highlighted by three 3-pointers from senior Matt Mathies. A late Colton Reed layup cut the lead to 17-6 after the first quarter. Mathies and senior Cam Wagler combined for 15 of the Lions 17 first quarter points
"We talked the other day about Matt's (Mathies) ability to score," said Loogootee coach Mike Wagoner. "When he only takes four shots, either he's not working to get open or we¹re not setting him up enough. Matt is that kind of kid - he can get 17 or 18 on any given night. We talked about him driving to the basket and pulling up short, and he did that tonight."
In the second quarter things didn¹t get any easier for the Cardinals. A Nick Boyd basket cut the lead back to 11, at 21-10, but Loogootee countered with a 16-2 run to end the quarter. The Lions took the 37-12 lead into halftime, as Mathies led all scorers with 13 points.
"I know we've been struggling for a while, but we need to do a better job controlling our game on the offensive end," said Washington Catholic John Howell. "We tend to get in a hurry and jack up quick shots. We have to learn to be a little more patient when we're struggling shooting the ball."
Loogootee continued its dominant play in the third quarter by outscoring the Cardinals 19-7 in the quarter. Mathies connected on his fourth 3-pointer of the night, and added his third two-point basket. Brendan Purdue led Washington Catholic with four points in the third.
The Lions won their fourth consecutive quarter by winning the final quarter 16-4. Wagoner was pleased to see his bench get increased playing time along with nearly the same level of productivity as the starters showcased earlier in the night.
"We said we were going to play a lot of people, and some guys that are going to help us in the tournament run," Wagoner said. "Hayden Bell, Waylon Matthews and Darian Stewart all three came in and contributed really well. I was happy to see those guys come in and be a positive factor."
In addition to Mathies' 18 points, Loogootee got 10 points apiece from Cam Wagler and Colin Nelson. Will Nonte added nine points and Conner Wittmer scored seven points.
Howell said a game like this is important to show his team that they need to continue to work and finish off the season on a positive note. TJ Hill and Brendan Purdue led the Cardinals with six points apiece.
"I think we're a better team than what we've been showing," Howell said. "We need to get back to some fundamentals. We don't block anybody out, we don't keep the ball in front of us. We have been coasting in practice, when you're struggling you kind of get relaxed, and quit giving effort. We still have four games left."
In the final stretch run, Loogootee has the opportunity to win the Blue Chip Conference outright, and head into the Class A Sectional 63 with a head of steam as the Lions look to defend their first ever state championship.
"When we got Barr-Reeve down at their place we really said now this is in our hands to win this outright," Wagoner said. "We have one more game with North Knox, it's senior night, Coaches vs. Cancer night. Our focus is to win that game, but first we have to focus on Jasper, which is a great game for us at this time of year."