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John J. Watkins | The Times of Northwest Indiana
Homestead’s Caleb Swanigan grabs one of his 13 rebounds on Saturday.

Spartans’ run ended at semistate

Lake Central controls tempo, advances to state title game

– In a surprising postseason run, Homestead had controlled its fate by controlling the pace.

But in the Spartans’ first-ever semistate appearance Saturday, No. 8 Lake Central had the tempo in its favor en route to a 79-57 win in a Class 4A game at Lafayette Jeff.

The Indians (22-3) outscored the Spartans (20-8) 52-32 in the second half.

“The whole year we said we had to control the tempo of the game,” Homestead coach Chris Johnson said. “It was disappointing we didn’t play our best game, but give Lake Central a lot of credit.”

Lake Central will make its first appearance in the 4A state championship game Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Indians guards Joe Bannister (21 points) and Tye Wilburn (15 points) got going in the second half and helped wreak havoc on Homestead’s guards. They forced 13 turnovers, which led to 19 Lake Central points.

“We said all along that would be our Achilles’ heel,” Johnson said of the turnovers. “Teams have tried to do it to us all year long by getting up into our guards and making us handle it. They did a good job of pressuring us.”

Also for Lake Central, Butler-bound Tyler Wideman had 14 points, and Tyler Ross added 13 and 12 rebounds.

The Spartans dug out of a 10-point first-quarter deficit, 20-10, to get to within 27-25 at halftime.

Lake Central came out in the second half with an aggressive 1-3-1 defense and outscored Homestead 18-9 in the third and 34-23 in the fourth.

Caleb Swanigan led Homestead with 22 points and 13 rebounds, Joe Ault had 12 points and Tahj Curry added 11.

“We are not a press type of team, so we had to control the tempo, and they got ahead by hitting some big 3s and hitting their free throws, and they got up and we couldn’t get back into it,” Swanigan said.

“That was big for us to come back in the second quarter, but they opened it up in the third by hitting some big shots.”

With the 6-foot-8, 275-pound Swanigan, the Spartans have had an advantage inside against most teams. Homestead had gotten the kind of guard play it needed in the postseason – until the semistate.

“We had a tough time getting it to where we wanted to, and that was getting it to Caleb,” Johnson said. “We just could never get over the hump.”

Homestead got to within 59-50 in the fourth but Lake Central finished on a 20-7 run.

“Playing behind we felt the urgency and rushed it,” Swanigan said. “If we would have moved the ball, we would have gotten the shots we wanted every time.”

The final margin of 22 points was the Indians’ largest lead of the game.

Homestead led one time, 4-3 early in the first. The game was never tied.

“We are not the type of team that can play from behind,” Johnson said. “The whole game we were playing catch-up, that’s what it felt like.”

Homestead made 17 of 53 (32 percent) of its shots from the field and 19 of 29 (66 percent) from the line.

“Lake Central is a great team,” Ault said. “Unfortunately our shots weren’t falling, and we came up a little short.”

The Spartans had knocked off Kokomo and No. 3 Hamilton Southeastern to win last Saturday’s Marion Regional.

“No one ever expected us to go this far,” Ault said. “As a leader on this team, it was awesome to lead them this far.”