LAKEVIEW — The Lakeview Wildcats are district champions for the first time since 2008. It did not come easy.
The Wildcats (20-3) opened the second half with a flurry, but needed a late basket by junior Nate Shurlow to clinch a 46-45 Class C district championship over the Ithaca Yellowjackets on Friday night in Lakeview.
“I’ve been waiting for this for four years and it finally happened,” senior Shawn Lindsey said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
After a slow scoring first half — tied 16-16 — the Wildcats opened the half on a 9-0 run for a 25-16 advantage. Lakeview’s defense held the Yellowjackets scoreless until Logan Hessbrook knocked down a shot with 3:56 remaining in the quarter.
Lindsey said the key to the run was the Wildcats’ defense.
“Just defense. We stressed defense all week,” Lindsey said. “Defense, defense.”
The Yellowjackets (15-7) started to heat up offensively when they hit two three-pointers — sandwiched around a Caleb Ruvalcaba three-pointer — in the final minutes of the third quarter to trail 33-27.
“We got some steals in the first half. They protected and took care of the ball better in the second half,” Lakeview coach Mike Schreiber said. “They still didn’t get what they wanted on offense. Some shots are going to go down, but we did what we wanted to do defensively. We have to clean up the offense.”
Lakeview led 43-35 when Josh Hafner hit a three-pointer to start a 7-0 run. A Lakeview free throw gave the Wildcats a 44-42 advantage.
Hafner, though, came back with his third three-pointer of the game, with 44 seconds left in the quarter, to give the Yellowjackets their first lead of the game since early in the first quarter at 45-44.
The lead didn’t last long as Lakeview junior Nate Shurlow took the inbound pass, the length of the court, for an easy layup and 46-45 lead just 13 seconds later.
“He (Shurlow) has been our ice man for two years,” Schreiber said. “He knows what to do with that thing (ball) when he got his hands on it. That’s for sure. It was a sweet play.”
Ithaca called timeout to set up a play. Waiting for the final shot, a pass to the high-post was knocked away and stolen by John Torres. Torres was fouled, but missed both shots with only 2.5 seconds remaining.
The Yellowjackets had one final chance to win the game, but could not get the shot off before the clock expired.
“I knew we would pull it out. We missed some free throws, but ended out on top,” Lindsey said. “We didn’t play too badly in the first half. We picked it up in the second half right from the get go. We came out on fire.”
Torres finished with a team-high 12 points.
“(John) Torres played out of his mind tonight,” Schreiber said. “He had, probably his best game as far as getting everything done.”
Shurlow added 10 points, while Lindsey and Brad Hamlin each added nine points.
Hafner scored a game-high 21 points. Hessbrook finished with eight points.
Lakeview will travel to Montabella High School on Monday for the regional semifinal against Shelby (21-2) at 6 p.m. Shelby defeated Montague 58-49 in the district final.
“We’ve been playing together for a long time,” Lindsey said. “I think we have a shot at regionals. We have a lot of chemistry. We should have a chance.”
Pewamo-Westphalia will face Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian in the other regional semifinal.
LAKEVIEW 46, ITHACA 45
Ithaca 9 7 11 18 — 45
Lakeview 10 6 17 13 — 46
ITHACA (15-7) — T. Smith 3 0-2 6, Villalobos 1 0-0 2, Hafner 9 0-0 21, Hessbrook 3 2-3 8, DeMull 2 0-0 6, J. Smith 0 2-3 2. Totals: 18 4-8 45. Three-point goals: Hafner 3, DeMull 2. Total fouls: 19. Fouled out: Hessbrook, T. Smith.
LAKEVIEW (20-3) — Lindsey 3 3-4 9, Hamlin 3 3-5 9, Ruvalcaba 2 0-0 6, Torres 4 4-10 12, Shurlow 4 2-6 10. Totals: 16 12-25 46. Three-point goals: Ruvalcaba 2. Total fouls: 10. Fouled out: None.