FORT WAYNE – The superstar players are alive and well in the Class 4A postseason.
Three of the four teams contending for a state championship in the biggest class possess one of those special players. Two of them will go head-to-head when unranked Homestead and No. 8 Lake Central face off in the northern semistate.
The Indians have 6-foot-7, 245-pound senior Tyler Wideman, while the Spartans have 6-8, 275-pound sophomore Caleb Swanigan. Wideman is headed to Butler, and Swanigan has offers from Indiana, Michigan State, Illinois and Tennessee among others.
Wideman is putting up 15.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, while Swanigan is at 21.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.
We have a Division I athlete on the team, so we just throw it into him, and he’s going to score the buckets, Homestead sophomore Tahj Curry said of Swanigan.
Not to be outdone, not by a long shot, Indianapolis Tech has one of the leading candidates for Mr. Basketball in 6-10, 255-pound senior Trey Lyles, who is signed with Kentucky. Lyles is averaging 23.9 points, 13 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
When you get to this time of year, you look at the teams who are in it still (in 4A), and you have big-time players and also guys who are very good role players surrounding them, Homestead coach Chris Johnson said.
Second-ranked Indianapolis Tech (25-2) faces unranked Bloomington North (16-8) in the southern semistate at Richmond. On the line is an appearance in the 4A state finals at 8:15 p.m. March 29 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
This is the time for star players to shine the brightest, and both Wideman and Swanigan, in particular, seem to be stepping up their games in the postseason.
Wideman hit the game-winning basket in the final seconds as Lake Central beat Penn 57-55 in the regional finals. Swanigan had 26 points and 13 rebounds in a 59-57 win over No. 3 Hamilton Southeastern in the regional finals and 18 points and 22 rebounds in a 68-60 win over Kokomo in the regional semifinals.
And when the star player hasn’t been on the court, the role players have stepped up.
In Homestead’s case, Swanigan picked up his fourth foul early in the fourth quarter in the regional finals and headed to the bench. The Spartans remained close until Swanigan returned en route to the upset win and the school’s first-ever regional championship.
We are playing at a high level, and I couldn’t be any more proud of a group of kids who have found their way and are figuring it out, Johnson said.
Very easily with a young team, we could have folded (in the regional finals). We had to sit Caleb (with four fouls), and the kids kept battling. They had a chance to tie it late and still we didn’t fold. That was a big accomplishment for these kids to pull it out.
Swanigan’s absence didn’t create a headache for the Spartans.
We have gotten way better at handling the press and the pressure, Curry said. That’s how we stay calm with Biggie (Swanigan) in the fourth quarter.