TERRE HAUTE —
After watching Robinson go back-to-back with high school basketball victories over both host Terre Haute South and two-time defending Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic champion Terre Haute North, fans of Northview’s Knights may have gone into Saturday night’s first semifinal game hoping the Maroons might suffer a letdown.
They may have gotten their wish, although it’s probably more likely that the Knights simply played well and hard. But although the game was within reach for Northview until late in the fourth quarter, Robinson never trailed after the first period and reached Monday’s 6:30 p.m. championship game with a 56-45 win.
“We came out like I feared, not like I hoped,” coach Mack Thompson of the Maroons said after the game. “There wasn’t much jump in our step.
“But this is three pretty tough days in a row, playing the biggest schools over here, and Northview did a nice job throwing us different looks.”
The Knights could have been better shooting free throws (8 of 16) and taking care of the ball (19 turnovers) in their upset bid. But Northview actually came out ahead in the rebound battle as Jim Mace, Ethan Whitson, Daniel Kimball and Christian Ellis more than held their own against the brawny Robinson front line, and Travis Hakman did a masterful — and probably exhausting — defensive job on Robinson's Aaron Siler, holding him to 17 points (and only seven field goal attempts) a day after he'd burned Terre Haute North for 39.
Unfortunately for the Knights, Robinson has more than one weapon.
“They have a very good team,” coach Clint Weddle of the Knights said after the game, when Hakman’s defensive work was being praised. “There are five of them out there.”
“Aaron just wants to win,” Thompson said of his senior guard. “He wants to play Monday night, and he will do whatever it takes to do that and doesn't bat an eye about it.”
Robinson took the lead for good with an 8-0 run late in the first quarter. Cory Blount, Michael Akande and Brayden Scott had the baskets, Derrick Nicholas had an assist on Akande's two-hand dunk and Siler got his first two points of the game from the foul line. That rally made the score 13-6.
The 6-foot-5 Whitson hit what may have been his first 3-pointer of the year to draw the Knights within 13-9 at the stop, but Robinson stretched the lead to 10 points on two occasions in the second quarter before settling for a 26-18 margin at halftime.
A 3-pointer by Craig Peters got Northview within 28-21 early in the third quarter, but Robinson answered with a three-point play by Nicholas. Then Siler found a little space, getting his only three field goals in that quarter which ended 41-30 in Robinson's favor.
Twice in the fourth period Northview got within eight points and their fans sensed a comeback. Trailing 45-37 with the ball, the Knights got a shot they probably wanted out of a timeout and missed it, and Robinson responded with a rebound basket by the soaring Akande and a nifty feed from Scott to Nicholas for a layup. Now the margin was 11 points, and it never got under 10 the rest of the way.
Weddle told his team afterward that there's no such thing as a good loss, but that didn't mean he wasn't happy with a lot of their play.
“Our kids are getting there,” he said. “They keep giving their best ... they believed they had a chance to win tonight.
“We stress making strides every day, having a great effort and having a great attitude.
The 6-6 Mace hit three second-half 3-pointers and led Northview in scoring with 15, while Peters had 11. Foul trouble limited Whitson to the nine points he scored in the first half.
Akande added 14 points and Blount 11 for the Maroons, with Nicholas grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds. Thompson indicated afterward he was hoping for a better defensive effort from his team in the championship game.
“We gave up too many drives to the basket,” he said. “Give [the Knights] credit; they attacked when they had a chance and they made some plays.”
NORTHVIEW (45) — Mace 4-6 4-6 15, Hakman 1-1 1-2 3, Whitson 4-6 0-2 9, Peters 5-15 0-0 11, Ball 0-4 0-0 0, Ellis 1-4 3-5 5, Tanoos 0-0 0-0 0, Kimball 1-1 0-0 2, Clark 0-0 0-1 0. Totals 16-37 FG, 8-16 FT, 45 TP.
ROBINSON (56) — Akande 6-13 2-4 15, Scott 2-6 0-0 5, Nicholas 3-11 1-2 7, Siler 3-7 11-14 17, Blount 4-9 1-2 11, Hoagland 0-1 0-0 0, Weck 0-0 0-0 0, Richart 0-2 2-2 2, Chipman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-49 FG, 18-25 FT, 56 TP.
Northview 9 9 12 15 — 45
Robinson 13 13 15 15 — 56
3-point shooting — Northview 5-13 (Mace 3-3, Whitson 1-1, Peters 1-3, Ball 0-3, Ellis 0-3), Robinson 3-14 (Blount 2-5, Scott 1-4, Akande 0-1, Siler 0-2, Richart 0-2). Total fouls — Northview 20, Robinson 18. Fouled out — Akande. Turnovers — Northview 19, Robinson 10. Rebounds — Northview 35 (Whitson 6, Peters 6, Ellis 6, Mace 5), Robinson 32 (Nicholas 13, Scott 6, Akande 6). Assists — Northview 6 (Peters 2, Ellis 2), Robinson 11 (Siler 3, Scott 2, Nicholas 2, Blount 2). Steals — Northview 5 (Hakman 2, Peters 2), Robinson 12 (Nicholas 4, Blount 2). Blocks — Northview 1 (Mace), Robinson 3 (Akande, Nicholas, Weck). Technical fouls — Northview bench, Ball.
Next — Northview (5-3) plays for third place at 5 p.m. Monday. Robinson (12-1) plays in the 6:30 p.m. championship game.