HARTINGTON — Laurel-Concord-Coleridge let a 12-point lead get away in the first half and were in danger of seeing their hopes of a conference title slipping away in the second half.
The Bears turned to senior Ty Erwin, who caught fire in the fourth quarter and scored 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, helping LCC outscore Ponca 25-9 in the final eight minutes to post a 66-56 win and claim the Lewis & Clark Conference championship Monday night at Hartington Cedar Catholic High School.
The Bears capped a four-game run through the conference tournament bracket, defeating Wausa (78-40), Wakefield (52-38) and Winnebago (59-42) before posting a fourth-quarter comeback to beat Ponca for the second time this season.
And as far as coach Todd Erwin is concerned, that’s enough.
“I’m so happy for the kids and the school and everybody who’s worked on it,” he said as his players cut down the nets. “It’s great and Ponca is a great team and I don’t want to play them again this year. It’s a great matchup and we are so fortunate to get them two times this year. That’s not going to happen very often.”
The Bears got off to a hot start early and raced to an 18-6 lead. Noah Schutte hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the opening stanza.
Ponca hit a late jumper to make it 18-8 after one period, and that late score seemed to flip the momentum into the second period. LCC led by as many as 12 at 28-16 with 4:48 to go in the half, but the Indians rallied, using a late first-half run highlighted by consecutive 3-pointers from Brandon Kneifl and Bryar Bennett to forget a 30-30 halftime deadlock.
“We got lackadaisical when Ponca had their run,” Erwin said. “We like that 1-2-2 (defense), but we got distracted and lost our guys, and you have to play them three feet off the (3-point) line, and they’re quick enough to drive, so it’s not easy what we’re asking them to do.”
At the half, the elder Erwin called on the senior forward to step it up after being limited to four points in the opening two periods.
“I told him at halftime what he had, and we’re not all about points, but you need to be there as a senior,” Erwin said. “He got to driving and creating and it kind of came around.”
Ponca took a 47-41 lead into the fourth quarter, when Erwin went to work. He scored eight straight points to tie the game at 49-49, then found a wide open Evan Haisch in the corner. The sophomore calmly drilled the uncontested triple to make it 52-49 and Erwin added another basket to give LCC a five-point lead that they would never relinquish.
Schutte led four Bears in double figures with 23 points, while Erwin finished with 17. Cael Hartung scored 15 points and Evan Haisch added 11.
Schutte led the team with 12 rebounds, while Haisch had five. Schutte and Evan Schmitt each had three assists.
In Thursday’s quarterfinals, the Bears handled Wakefield, 52-38. Three Bears finished in double figures, led by Hartung’s 15 points. Schutte added 13 and Erwin put up 11, while Haisch scored seven, Wilton Roberts had three and Austin Hall scored two.
LCC handled Winnebago in the semifinals Saturday, 59-42. Schutte had a game-high 26 points and a career-high 22 rebounds in the win. Erwin added 23 points, Hartung had six and Haisch and Hall both had two.
LCC 16 5 1912— 52
Wakefield 8 10 12 8 — 38
LCC — Roberts 3, Hartung 15, Schutte 13,
Haisch 7, Erwin 11, Hall 2.
WAKEFIELD — Erb 5, Heimann 7, Brown 16, Ca. Johnson 10.