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Lutheran down 3 higher ranked teams en route to state final

Lutheran down 3 higher ranked teams en route to state final

By Mark Ambrogi

The Lutheran High School basketball team has answered every challenge en route to the Class A state championship game.

The Saints (19-7), ranked No. 8 in Class A, will face Southwood (15-12) at 10:30 a.m. March 25 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.  The Saints, who beat three teams ranked higher in the postseason, rallied from a double-digit second half deficit before topping No. 4 Loogootee 67-66 March 18 in the semistate opener at Washington High School. Lutheran then topped Rock Creek Academy 55-47 in the semistate final.

Previously, Lutheran topped No. 5 Greenwood Christian 61-57 in the sectional championship game and No. 1 Bloomfield 43-40 in the regional championship at Martinsville.

“Greenwood Christian was a great team to have to play,” Lutheran coach Remus Woods said. “Loogootee was very talented. Playing them near home was really tough. Bloomfield was a great team, too, and Peter Combs was a great athlete. It was another Southern advantage. They brought the entire town of Bloomfield. That made them really tough.”

Lutheran basketball team celebrates with trophy after winning semistate. (Photos courtesy of Lutheran Athletics)

Lutheran has captured 10 consecutive victories since a 48-41 overtime loss at Class 4A Perry Meridian. The Saints have mostly a mix of seniors and sophomores, starting two sophomore guards.

“So you have to keep a level of trust with each other and play together,” Woods said.

This is Lutheran’s second appearance in the state basketball finals, finishing runner-up in 2008. Woods said the regular season schedule also helped make his team battle tested before the postseason. Woods said his team playing Lawrence North in the Marion County Tournament helped. Lawrence North defeated Lutheran 65-63 in the opening round.

“We already had Chatard and Greenwood Christian on the schedule and a couple other really good teams on our schedule,” Woods said. “We just figured if we play a harder schedule during the year, it will have us ready for the postseason. I’ve been telling them here lately that I don’t care about the record, I want them to learn how to play championship basketball.”

The Saints have a balanced scoring attack. Sophomore guard LJ Ward leads the team with 13.1 points per game, followed by senior guard Durray Smith with a 12.2 scoring average. Sophomore Cayden Loescher averages 8.8 points

“One of my favorite teams was Pike in the early 2000s who had great balance,” Woods said. “When you have the scoring spread out, it’s hard for teams to prepare for you.”

Lutheran got a boost when Smith, a Plainfield transfer, became eligible in January.

“He’s enjoying the role 100 percent, a great kid,” Woods said of Smith. “He listens, he’s coachable. When he came over he was really distraught about not playing for a full year, but he battled through it.”

Lutheran coach Remus Woods cuts
down the net after the Saints won the semistate. (Photo courtesy of Lutheran Athletics)

The Saints boast good size with 6-foot-6 sophomore RaiShaun McHaney. Lutheran also has a pair of 6-5 seniors with brothers Kameron and Kaiden Patterson. Each averages 4.8 rebounds per game. Kameron averages 7.5 and Kaiden 6.5 points.

“We’re big, fast and strong,” Woods said. “It helps to have a really good football team. Seven of my players play football and basketball.”

Senior guard Nathan Lehner is Southwood’s leading scorer with 15.6 scoring average, followed by senior forward Cole Winer at 14 points per game.

Southwood, which has won eight games in a row, entered the postseason with a 10-12 record.

“It looks like they like to run, which is good for us because we like to run,” Woods said. “They put a lot of pressure on (Class A No. 2 ) Fountain Central and (No. 10) Marquette Catholic, so we’re just going to prepare for the pressure. It will be two teams trying to press each other.”

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