CATLIN — Salt Fork seniors Ross Learnard and Cole Taylor didn’t hesitate when asked for the key in the Storm’s 51-45 victory over the Milford Bearcats in IHSA Class 1A regional championship.
While Learnard and Taylor combined for 29 points, according to them, it was getting the ball inside to 6-foot-5 senior center Max Stutsman.
“Giving it to Max is always our best option,’’ said Taylor, who finished with 12 points, two assists and three steals.
So after a first half in which Stutsman had just six points on five shot attempts, the Storm turned to their main attraction in the second half.
Stutsman scored 15 second-half points, including eight straight in the third quarter, to lead Salt Fork to its second straight regional title and the fourth in the past six seasons.
“He’s done that multiple times this year,’’ said Learnard, who had 17 points six rebounds, four assists and four steals. “He is our guy and we’re going to go to him.
“We’re just a side show. He is the leader.’’
Actually, Stutsman was not very happy with his play in the first two quarters even thought Salt Fork had a 22-19 halftime lead.
“To be honest with you, I was playing like a wimp in the first half,’’ he said. “I knew I had to get something going for my team and get some momentum going.’’
What exactly did he do wrong?
“I made some really bad decisions, like putting the ball on the ground and letting the guards take it from me,’’ said Stutsman, who finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds, both of them were game-highs. “I just decided to get more physical in the second half and I played my heart out.’’
After being held to just five shot attempts in the first half, Stutsman was 6-of-8 from the field in the second half and he was 3-of-5 at the free-throw line in the final 16 minutes.