NORTH JUDSON - Establishing culture.
Since the hiring of Nicholas Amor two years ago to take the reins of the LaVIlle High School girls basketball program, the LaVille alum has spoken about his goals and setting a culture.
In his first year, Amor led the Lancers to 19 wins, a spot in the Class 2A Sectional title game, and helping LaVille to its first Everwise Bi-County championship in 30 years.
Bucket list item checked off the list - Bi-County Championship.
Saturday, Amor's club played tough defense, was able to withstand a Blue Jay run in the second half, then knocked down free throws late to earn the Sectional 34 championship, 47-37, over the host Jays.
It was the first sectional crown since 2003 for LHS.
Bucket list items number two checked off the list - Sectional Championship.
"This is huge for all those little girls that want to have that experience and so what this does is just builds that winning mentality," explained Amor. "Basketball is fun, but basketball is a little bit more fun when you win and so it creates that culture and that's what we've been competing against all season long is other teams that have already established that culture and we're just still trying to establish and I believe tonight we established that culture."
After closing the first quarter knotted up at 8-8, LaVIlle was able to create some distance with its defensive pressure, deflections and steals to take a 20-12 halftime lead.
An 8-2 spurt right before halftime proved critical.
And it wasn't just one or two players getting the job done. It was a team effort on defense, and sharing the ball on offense. Players hitting big shots as Amor's squad began to create more and more confidence.
The two Hoosier North rivals played the third quarter even, before an exciting final eight minutes led to the LaVille celebration.
Leading 39-29 with just under three minutes left in the game, North Judson made one final push. The Jays were able to string together an offense of attacking the basket and hitting a couple jump shots to close the gap to 41-35 with 1:43 remaining.
LaVille, however, was able to convert at the line and score a couple easy baskets in transition to stave off North Judson and win its first sectional trophy in 21 years.
Brooke Edison led all scorers with 17 points
"Defense has been key like you mentioned these last four games and what's happening," noted Amor. "At the beginning of the season we focus on Brooke and Makalya and don't get me wrong every night they just grind and they are our best defenders but then when you can do it as a team you see scores like this where a good offensive scoring team like Judson is struggles to score over 30 points because we did it as a team and we were in help side. We communicated, and our hands were up and we were in stances. You know Makayla and Brooke get it done in the passing lanes by getting deflections by getting steals, but they can do that because they know that their teammate has their back in the help side."
The Lancers improve to 12-11 overall and will face Andrean (12-14) in the IHSAA Regional round at a site to be determined. The 59ers picked up a 40-20 win over Illiana Christian to win the Lake Station Sectional.
Amor praised his team for helping in the turnaround for LaVille girls basketball.
"It's to their effort. It's to their grind. It's to their buy-in each and every day. I appreciate that you say "you" but I get to only stand over there and yell or stand over there and talk, but they did it on the floor and they did it on the floor and they wanted it and they believed they could do it. I think that the biggest key to success is believing that you can do it. Sometimes you might not always have the best talent, sometimes you might not always have the best size and match up or athleticism but your heart and mindset going into that battle makes a difference and that's the key to success."
On to the next challenge, the Andrean 59ers.
2A NORTH JUDSON SECTIONAL #34
LaVille 47, North Judson 37
Score By Quarters
LaVille 8 20 28 47
NJSP 8 12 20 37
LaVille - Lily Smith 4, Mackena Deason 2, Ava Weil 6, Brooke Edison 17, Mikalah Kuskye 7, London Kwiatkowski 7, Faith Mejer 2, Jasmine Foster 2. Totals: 16 13-32 47
North Judson - Anna Garbison 3, Grace Craig 2, Kyleigh Lehiy 6, Cailyn Tunis 3, Avaree Johnston 9, Bailey Frazier 0, Kaia Burkett 1, Raegan Hensley 9, McKinley Dusek 0, Gracie Minix 4. Totals: 11 15-22 37
3-point field goals: LaVille 2 (Weil, Kuskye), North Judson - 1 (Garbison)
Records: LaVille 12-11, North Judson 14-11 (final)
Next game: Feb.10 LaVille v. Andrean at Winamac Regional, 4 p.m.