Class A, No. 1 Waldron is Final Four bound.
The Mohawks scored 13 points in 90 seconds Saturday night to open up a double-digit lead on Bethesda Christian, who never fully recovered despite an outstanding shooting performance from Paige Vawter, to win the Southwestern Regional championship, 50-45.
The Mohawks, now 24-1, will travel to Jeffersonville for a 1 p.m. semistate game Saturday against No. 7 Tecumseh (18-8), a 47-46 winner over No. 2 Lanesville in the West Washington Regional.
“Just like I said in the sectional, there is no better feeling as a coach than seeing the joy on your kids’ faces,” said Waldron coach Anthony Thomas, who was named the Hoosier Basketball Coaches Association District 3 Coach of the Year Monday. “Two games today, put a little bit more mileage on the legs than we wanted, maybe it wasn’t the prettiest all the time but we made enough plays to move on.”
Waldron opened the second quarter Saturday trailing Bethesda Christian 10-8. Josee Larrison sank a pair of free throws at the 6:42 mark and followed that 21 seconds later with a layin off a Hadlie Ross steal to give the Mohawks the lead for good.
Megan Bogemann hit back-to-back three-pointers, Bella Larrison completed a three-point play off a steal and score, then scored again off an offensive rebound to take a 23-10 lead with 5:12 left in the quarter.
If not for Vawter’s long-range prowess, Waldron could have run away with the game before halftime.
Vawter splashed three 3s in less than two minutes and Lindsey Dodson hit another 3 that kept the Patriots within reach at halftime, trailing 29-24.
Bella Larrison took over in the third quarter. The senior scored eight of her game-high 19 points and had three steals.
“I haven’t seen Bella play two off games in her whole career,” said Thomas of the senior who was scoreless in the semifinal win over Bloomfield. “That’s what I told her. Big players step up in big moments and she did that.”
Waldron led 38-29 after three quarters and Bethesda Christian’s high-scoring point guard Kenzie Fulks already had four fouls.
Nichole Garner opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a 3 to make it 41-29 but Vawter matched that with her fifth trifecta of the game.
Bella Larrison scored in the low post but Holly Daugherty countered with another 3 for the Patriots.
Garner scored from the wing to push the lead back to 11 before the Patriots produced one more serious run.
JayLa Ferguson scored in the low post to spark a 7-0 spurt that included Fulks driving and scoring and converting the free throw then stealing an inbounds pass and scoring to cut Waldron’s lead to 46-42 with 1:44 to go.
Waldron used its experience to spread the floor from there and forced the Patriots to foul. Garner and Bella Larrison hit just enough free throws to keep Vawter, who hit her sixth 3 of the game with 22 seconds left, and Bethesda Christian at bay.
Larrison had six rebounds, four assists and four steals in the championship.
“I definitely told myself before the second game that I had to turn it on because I didn’t want to end the regional with the way I played the first game,” said Larrison.
Bogemann hit five 3s to help offset Vawter’s shooting performance and Ross (photo below, right) and Mackenzie Shaw combined for 17 rebounds.
“Going into this, one thing they told me was shoot if you’re open,” said Bogemann, who has made 71 3s this season. “This deep in the tournament every point counts and you have to believe in yourself and have that confidence.”
Vawter hit 6 of 7 3s in the game to finish with 18 points. The junior was 8 of 12 from behind the arc in the regional.
“They went on a nice run early in the second quarter and we withstood it when Kenzie got in foul trouble. I had to trust her and put her back in and that helped make that run with Paige,” said Bethesda Christian head coach Roger Hanna.
Fulks (photo, left), who came into the game averaging 23 ppg, was limited to 12 in the championship.
The regional championship game appearance was a first for Bethesda Christian, located in Brownsburg. Only one senior, Holly Daugherty, played against Waldron.
“We all know a year away, anything can happen,” said Hanna of making a potential fourth straight regional appearance. “We are young. Our sophomore group is our strong group. Paige (Vawter) will be our only senior with five or six juniors. We will have a lot of experience coming back.”
Waldron is all-in this year with a varsity roster of seven seniors and one junior. The program will make its second semistate appearance. The only other regional championship came in 2010.
“I am just beside myself. There are four of us left,” said Thomas. “I can’t quit thinking about that. You are one win from Indy. Why not us?”
The Class A northern semistate championship game will be played at 4 p.m. Saturday at Logansport.
No. 3 Lafayette Central Catholic (23-4) will face No. 8 North White (20-6) for the right to play in the Class A state championship game on Feb. 26 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Waldron 50, Bethesda Christian 45
BC: Fulks 4-9 4-5 12, Daugherty 2-6 0-0 6, Dodson 1-2 0-0 3, Vawter 6-9 0-0 18, Ferguson 2-4 0-2 4, Goodin 1-3 0-0 2, Heim 0-0 0-0 0, Collins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-33 4-7 45.
WA: Had. Ross 1-4 1-2 3, Shaw 0-5 1-2 1, Bogemann 5-14 0-0 15, Garner 1-7 3-6 6, B. Larrison 7-10 3-6 19, J. Larrison 1-1 4-4 6, Fewell 0-0 0-0 0, Hal. Ross 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-41 13-21 50.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
BC (15-8) 10 14 5 16 -- 45
WA (24-1) 8 21 9 12 -- 50
Three-point field goals: BC 9-15 (Fulks 0-2, Daugherty 2-4, Dodson 1-1, Vawter 6-7, Goodin 0-1), WA 7-17 (Shaw 0-1, Bogemann 5-13, Garner 1-1, B. Larrison 1-2). Rebounds: BC 19 (Fulks 1, Daugherty 1, Dodson 1, Vawter 4, Ferguson 4, Goodin 6, Heim 1, Collins 1), WA 27 (Had. Ross 9, Shaw 8, Bogemann 2, B. Larrison 6, J. Larrison 3). Assists: BC 10 (Fulks 4, Vawter 2, Ferguson 2, Goodin 2), WA 9 (Had. Ross 2, Garner 1, B. Larrison 4, J. Larrison 2). Steals: BC 2 (Fulks 2), WA 8 (Had. Ross 3, Bogemann 1, B. Larrison 4). Blocks: BC 1 (Goodin 1). Total fouls: BC 18, WA 12. Fouled out: Fulks (BC). Turnovers: BC 13, WA 7.
(Tyson Conrady photos)