LAKEVILLE, IN. - As the varsity boys championship game of the 58th TCU Bi-County Tournament was nearing the tip-off, LaVille coach Michael Edison asked his dad, and varsity assistant Jack Edison, if he would mind talking to the Lancer basketball players in the locker room.
The younger Edison was joining his wife, Emily, for the annual W.B. Hawkins Award presented by Teachers Credit Union at the conclusion of the TCU varsity girls championship game. Michael's oldest daughter, Lauren, was the female nominee for the prestigious award.
The LaVille boys basketball team, meanwhile, waited back in the locker room. They were preparing to embark on the task of dethroning the defending champion John Glenn Falcons, who were trying to win the TCU Bi-County championship for the fifth straight year.
About two hours later, both Michael and Jack would ultimately find out that their Lancer basketball team leaders had them lined up to win their first TCU title since 2018 following a 54-52 victory over the Falcons.
"I had things written on the board and I said to my dad, 'hey if you don't mind, would you talk to them about some of those things I put on the board and get them going'. I went out and came back in and I asked him if he talked to them yet. And he said, no. He said 'I stood by the door and I was listening to them a little bit. The things that the seniors were saying and things they were talking about were spot on and they were focused and talking about the keys to the victory'. And he said that 'nothing I was going to say was going to be better than what they were already saying.' He said that you could just tell with their focus level and their intentness that they were ready to go. Things we tried to do, they did. It's not like we played a perfect game, they were just in it."
That focus level and intentness played out to LaVille's favor as the host Lancers pulled off the victory in dramatic fashion.
With neither team holding more than a two possession lead over the final eight minutes, it would ultimately be free throws and solid defense that helped the Lancers secure the TCU trophy.
The score was deadlocked at 40-40 as the fourth quarter got under way.
Then following an exchange of possession, LaVille's Owen Smith got a steal and subsequent lay-up to give LHS a 42-40 lead with 4:26 left in the stanza.
After a defensive stop by the Lancers, Collin Allen found Collin Czarnecki near the top of the key for a big 3-pointer to push the LaVille lead to 45-40 with 6:19 remaining.
John Glenn, however, scored a couple baskets to narrow the lead to 45-44. Bryen Hannah got a bucket after driving down the right side of the lane, then Joey Shoue found Hannah cutting down the lane for another field goal to trim the Lancer lead to one.
The next Falcon possession would prove big after a JG basket was wavedoff after Allen took a charge to keep the Walkerton guests from taking the lead.
On the next LaVille possession, Ryan James stepped outside the arc and found nothing but net for a huge triple that gave the Lancers a big momentum boost and a 48-44 lead.
That, however, would be LaVille's final field goal of the game as Edison's club converted six-of-eight free throws down the stretch.
Glenn trailed 52-47 before Brycen Hannah connected on a 3-pointer from deep in the right corner.
Another defensive stand by the Lancer defense as Hannah missed a long distance three from the right wing. Joe Chrapliwy hustled to pick up the long offensive rebound, but the LHS defense made another stop as Czarnecki snagged a defensive rebound.
On the ensuing LaVille possession, the Falcons fouled to put the Lancers at the free throw line. Smith missed both charity tosses, but Michael Good hustled to grab the offensive rebound and kicked the ball back out top.
JG was forced to foul with the clock winding down, sending James to the line for a pair of freebies. The senior forward calmly sank a pair of tosses to give LV a 54-50 lead.
On the next Falcon possession, Hannah found Noah Dreibelbeis for a bucket to trim the Lancer lead to 54-52.
After a Glenn timeout stopped the clock, LaVille tried to go long, but Glenn was able to wrestle the ball away.
Travis Hannah called a timeout to set up the tying or winning play, but as Ty Larkin drove down the left side, his fall away shot was partially deflected by Good and the 6-foot-3 Lancer senior grabbed the rebound as the horn sounded.
"You know I really didn't know what they were going to do on that last play," Edison said of the final Glenn possession of the game. "We thought they might go low to Hannah and then kick it back out.
I like what our guys said in that timeout. They said 'let's not give up a wide open three' if it goes to a two, then we will get them in overtime. Michael Good came up with that block and the rest is just history. I was shocked!"
Both teams had moments of offensive and great defensive plays throughout the title game.
John Glenn had won four straight TCU championships heading into the 2023 tournament and had beaten LaVille by 14 points in Walkerton on December 17.
But the game plan was really kind of simple according to Edison.
"We were up 13-2 then we were down 18-13," recalled Edison. "Our goal was to stay with them for one minute. Then turn that minute into two minutes. And then see if we could make it to the quarter. At the end of the third quarter, I said to the guys, 'are we still in it?' and they said yeah. And I said, then let's finish it off. And they found a way.
"I was just really proud of them. Real proud of their effort. They were in it. They were ready to go. I am happy for our seniors. Happy for this group of guys. They have worked really hard. They have had a rough go of it."
James, who is generally selective with his shots, came up with a career-high 12 points for LaVille.
And when asked about giving James the green light more often from behind the arc, Edison said, "No. He's a post player, but he is a guard too. If you look at the way he plays when the game gets tense, he is the first guy to grab that thing, he is one to come to the ball strong and get it. I want my guards to come get it, but that is just the way Ryan plays. He is a little bulldog. He is our best defender. He goes all at it. And that (3-pointer) was not the only shot he hit. He hit a couple other shots that were tough, off-balance shots in amongst the trees. He just wanted it.. Those guys just played with a lot of heart. I know that is cliche, but they did."
Czarnecki led the Lancer offense with 19 points including three 3-pointers and six-of-six from the line.
"He stepped up really big." Edison said of Czarnecki, who was named the TCU Most Valuable Player. "He stepped up big at the free throw line. In the first game against (Glenn) I felt like he forced a few shots. And, I don't know, maybe only one shot that maybe he forced a little bit, but everything else was just in the flow of the game. He played amazing. But it was a total team effort."
Czarnecki finished with a double-double, after adding 10 rebounds.
Lucas Plummer and Good also gave a solid effort, scoring 10 and nine points, respectively. Smith chipped in with four points, while Allen and Ross Wagoner provided solid minutes for the Lancers.
"I still believe it," said Edison. "We are only as good as our next game. It's easy to get focused for Glenn . . . the finals of Bi-County. We are going to enjoy it!"
With the victory, both the LaVille girls and boys won the TCU Bi-County championship on the same night for the first time in school history.
We asked Edison how he felt about LaVille graduate and former player Nicholas Amor helping the LaVille lady hoops win its first crown in 30 years.
"Here is the scoop on Nick," explained Edison. "He has always wanted to win a Bi-County. Since he was in fourth grade. It has been like his dream. When I had him, he was a senior and we played John Glenn (in the 2013 TCU finals). We ran an out of bounds play with two second left for Andrew Hostetler. He missed the shot and would have probably won it for us. We lost and he (Nick) was devastated. We came back and won the sectional, but ever since then I have wanted it for Nick. I wanted that year for him more than I wanted it for myself and I am just so glad that he got it, that our guys and girls got it on the same night. My girls were part of that and it is an awesome night for the LaVille Community. We'll enjoy this!"