LOOGOOTEE — Late in the fourth quarter Saturday morning, Edinburgh coach Keith Witty signaled timeout to remind his players to savor the moment.
Not an easy task considering the score, but one necessary considering the myriad positives that had been part of a boys basketball season about to come to an end.
Doomed by a nightmarish second quarter, Witty’s squad lost to Christian Academy of Indiana 64-48 in the morning semifinal of the Class A regional at 4,500-seat Jack Butcher Arena.
Edinburgh, making its first regional appearance in six years, finishes with a 17-9 record.
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“I told them, ‘Guys, look at that crowd. They’re here to support you. You’ve got to keep playing. If anything, play for them,’” Witty said. “I thought they responded to that. That’s our character and how we are as a team.
“At the end of the day, there were 16 (Class A) teams that won a sectional, and there are no slouches. You play from behind early, it makes it kind of hard.”
Initially, that wasn’t an issue for the Lancers, who were near-flawless in jumping to a 17-11 lead through one period.
But as impressively as Edinburgh executed the first eight minutes, New Albany-based Christian Academy forced the Lancers into turnovers that would help the Warriors put together a 17-0 scoring run and essentially determine the outcome.
Edinburgh’s lone basket in the second came on a shot inside from senior guard Justin Fosskuhl at the 1:08 mark. The Lancers, behind 28-19 at halftime, twice trimmed it to eight in the third quarter, but could never get closer.
“They sped us up,” Fosskuhl shrugged. “I don’t think we played to our potential.”
Christian Academy led by as many as 20 points in the final stanza. The Warriors’ combination of length and quickness on the perimeter the difference.
“I’ll give them credit. They went to a full-court 2-2-1 and just caused us fits, and caused us to turn the ball over. It really took us out of what we wanted to do, which was to play quick,” Witty said. “We kind of went away from attacking the bucket and took some quick shots.
“They got a lot of deflections and steals out of their press. We just didn’t handle it very well.”
Most of the Lancers’ 15 turnovers occurred over the second and third quarters, in which they were outscored by a combined 30-9.
Senior forward Christian Cox led the Lancers with 14 points and eight rebounds. Junior point guard Bryce Burton was the other double-digit scorer for Edinburgh with 13. As a team, the Lancers made only 3 of 13 shots from behind the 3-point stripe and were outrebounded 28-18.
Christian Academy sophomore Bailey Conrad, a 6-foot-5 forward, led all scorers with 19 points and tied Cox for game rebounding honors with eight. The senior backcourt tandem of Noah Williams and Stephen Cook added 15 and 13 points, respectively. Williams and Cook have both exceeded 1,000 points in their Warriors careers.
“It’s tough to lose, but all of us have worked our whole lives to get to this point,” said Fosskuhl, who finished with seven points. “What I’ll remember most about this team is the sectional banner that’s going to be on the wall. It’s one of six in school history.”
A third regional title wasn’t to be, but Witty, who was hired last summer, only sees positives when viewing the past five months.
“I told my guys there’s 100 Class A teams to start the tournament. We got down to the final 16,” he said. “Ninety-nine teams lose their last game, so to get the chance to compete here is big for our community and for our school.
“If you would’ve asked me in July if we would be playing in the regional, I would’ve said I wasn’t sure about that. But that’s a credit to these kids. They worked hard all year and never gave in.”