Class A No. 1 Barr-Reeve’s 2-2-1 press caused three early turnovers for Trinity Lutheran, and before the Cougars knew it, the Vikings were up 9-0.
Trinity scored eight straight points to pull within one, but the Cougars gave up another run and trailed 14-8 through one quarter.
Trinity’s 6-foot-6 junior forward, Toby VanLiew, picked up his third foul at 6:37 of the second quarter while he battled Barr-Reeve’s 6-5 junior forward, Addison Wagler, in the post.
The Vikings took advantage and led 29-15 at halftime on their way to a 51-31 win to advance to the championship.
“I don’t think we turned the ball over that much on their press. I think we were able to handle that pretty well,” Cougars coach Aaron Rudzinski said. “I think what the press did to us is a few possessions caused us to put up some early shots.
“We were able to cut it down to 9-8 at one point,” he added. “Then closing out that first quarter, we made a few mistakes offensively. We wanted to kind of slow it down a little bit and get the last shot. We rushed it and got into a trap and gave it up, and they ended up going up 14-8 at the end of the first quarter.”
With VanLiew sitting for most of the second quarter, the Vikings outscored the Cougars 15-7.
“Being in foul trouble early hurt us,” Rudzinski said.
“We had to sit him for a lot of that second quarter, and I thought some of those fouls were kind of close. Then Jacob Schult came in and gave us some good minutes, a big body on Wagler. I think he did a pretty good job overall defensively, and he’s not scared of the situation at all, so that helped us a lot.”
Trinity didn’t have a good start to the second half, either. The Cougars turned the ball over on their first possession and wound up with eight turnovers in the third quarter.
One of the turnovers was a steal by Logan James, and he missed a layup but was fouled and made both free throws to cap off a 9-0 run for Barr-Reeve. That put the Vikings on top 40-17 at 3:37.
VanLiew ended that streak with a pair of free throws, and he later converted a three-point play off of an offensive rebound. But the Cougars trailed 42-22 going into the fourth quarter.
The Vikings then scored the first seven points of the fourth, allowing them to play keep-away late in the game.
Wagler led all scorers with 18 points, while Micah Bullock added 14 for Barr-Reeve.
Luke Stuckwisch hit two 3-pointers among his 10 points for Trinity (16-7), and Craig Stuckwisch scored seven points.
Craig Stuckwisch and Jonathan Rollins are the Cougars’ only seniors.
“I’m very proud of Jonathan and Craig and what they brought to the team in leadership and how they approach practices and games,” Rudzinski said.
“They are just real mild-mannered, business first. They provided a lot of leadership in how they act and what they do. It was a great four years for those guys. They went through a lot and accomplished a lot at the same time.”
While it will be tough losing those two, Rudzinski will have a lot of players returning.
“These guys can at least say they’ve been there before, and hopefully that will be good motivation for us,” he said. “I told the guys this is a good measuring stick for us and knowing what we need to do to get better, and I think with as much as we’ve got coming back, we’ve got a good chance of getting back here next year. But they realize what they’ve got to do to get there, and I think that’s one of the biggest positives coming out of this game.”
In Saturday night’s championship, Barr-Reeve (25-1) beat Northeast Dubois (12-13) 69-60. The Jeeps reached the finals after edging Lanesville (15-9) 55-53.