TERRE HAUTE —
There will be a new champion in the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic this year, thanks to one of the greatest scoring performances in the 13-year history of the boys high school basketball tournament.
Robinson’s Aaron Siler scored 39 points, 19 in the deciding fourth quarter, to lead the Maroons to a 63-58 victory over two-time defending champion Terre Haute North.
The total for Siler, who hit 12 of 22 shots from the floor and 12 of 13 free throws, ranks second only to the 40 points Indiana State’s R.J. Mahurin tallied for Rockville in 2007. Mahurin also had a 38-point game in that tournament.
“He’s that type of player that can take over a game,” Robinson coach Mack Thompson said, recounting Siler’s 35-point second half last year in the sectional.
North (5-4) tried everything to stop the 5-foot-11 Siler. The Patriots applied stopper guard Austin Lewis, tried traps and switches and even body-checked him, but Siler’s quickness, ball-handling skill and stutter starts and stops left the defense behind.
“We tried everything. We tried different guys on him. The bottom line is he just made good plays. He’s a good player. He hit tough shots,” North coach Todd Woelfle said.
And it took nearly every point Siler scored to overcome a strong performance by the Patriots.
“For us to come in [to Terre Haute] and weather their storms … [The Patriots] just kept coming at us and coming at us. We’d get the lead [and] they’d come back. They’d get the lead and we’d come back and luckily the clock ran out on them and we had the lead when it counted,” Thompson said.
Calvin Blank led North with 25 points and six rebounds, followed by Lewis with 13 points.
“Both teams gave great effort. I’m sure when we go back and look at the tape, I’m sure it’s going to be a game of several missed opportunities for us. We got really good looks at the basket, especially the second half, missed a lot of easy [shots] around the basket,” Woelfle said.
The tournament championship game Monday evening will be hard-pressed to match the intensity and raw emotion that both teams showed in a very physical basketball game.
After playing to a 29-29 standoff in the first half — Siler hit an NBA-length 3-pointer at the buzzer over the outstretched arm of Casey Vickers — North slipped out to a 46-40 at the end of the third quarter when Blank scored a three-point play, hit two free throws and Lewis hit a free throw.
Lewis put back a rebound to give North a 48-42 lead a minute into the fourth quarter. That was the last North point for the next four minutes.
Starting with the first Robinson basket of the fourth quarter, Siler scored eight straight points for the Maroons, tying the game 48-48.
Michael Akande, a 6-5 junior who was in foul trouble most of the game, put Robinson ahead 50-48 with 3:30 to play. Then Siler, a jump shooter, was fouled on a 3-point shot, and hit all three free throws to put Robinson ahead 53-48 with 3:07 to play.
“We missed a lot of easy ones. We got good looks. We were driving to the rim, got to the rim and weren’t able to finish,” Woelfle said.
A.J. Grady finally broke North’s scoring drought when he put back a rebound and was fouled with 3:07 to play.
Blank hit a 3 from the top of the circle to give North a 58-57 edge with 30 seconds left. Robinson’s Siler hit two free throws to give the Maroons a 59-58 edge.
North called timeout to set up the final play with 5.7 seconds on the clock. The Patriots got the ball to Blank, who spun to the basket, put up the shot and it rolled of the rim.
In the rebound battle, a foul was called, tempers flared and a technical was whistled. Blank was not ejected from the game, according to Woelfle.
Robinson’s Siler capped his 39-point night and the Maroons’ win with four straight free throws.
“Robinson had a good team. They played well today,” Woelfle said.
Robinson celebrated taking down the champ.
“I told [the players] this wasn’t the championship [game]. That [atmosphere] was just the elite eight [in Illinois]. We got two more games to get ready for,” Thompson said.
ROBINSON (63) — Scott 3-3 0-1 7, Nicholas 3-7 2-2 8, Akande 1-4 4-4 6, Blount 0-3 0-0 0, Siler 12-22 12-13 39, Hoaland 0-0 0-0 0, Richart 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 20-40 FG, 18-20 FT, 63 TP.
TERRE HAUTE NORTH (58) — Hart 0-8 0-0 0, Lewis 4-12 5-7 13, Blank 7-11 9-9 25, Davis 3-7 1-2 10, Jahn 1-4 0-0 3, Grady 2-4 1-1 5, Vickers 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 18-50 FG, 16-19 FT, 58 TP.
Robinson 13 16 11 23 -- 63
Terre Haute North 13 16 17 12 -- 58
3-point shooting — R 3-6 (Siler 3-6, Scott 1-1, Richart 1-1), THN 7-16 (Blank 3-4, Davis 3-6, Jahn 1-2, Vickers 0-1, Hart 0-3). Total fouls — R 19, THN 21. Fouled out — Nicholas, Akande. Technical fouls — Siler, Blank. Turnovers — R 11, THN 9. Rebounds — R 28 (Scott 7, Nicholas 6), THN 31 (Hart 9, Blank 6). Steals — R 3 (Akande 2), THN 2 (Lewis, Jahn).
Next — Today, North (5-4) will play Shakamak at 4 p.m. and Robinson (11-1) plays Northview at 7 p.m. at Terre Haute South.