BY AARON PATTERSON
There’s no place like home, and for the majority of those on Leek and Son’s men’s Dustbowl team, Danville will always be called home.
For that reason alone, Sunday’s title game against defending champion Indy Stars became personal. For the last two years, the men’s Dustbowl championship trophy traveled to Indianapolis and Peoria. Former Danville High guard Dennis Hightower wanted to make sure it didn’t leave Vermilion County this year, and by the tournament’s conclusion, he earned MVP honors and helped Leek and Son’s knock off the defending champs 91-76.
“I think this is big to bring the Dustbowl trophy back to Danville because it hasn’t been here in a long time,” Hightower said. “They won it last year, and Peoria won it the year before. I think this stands for an alliance. Next time the Dustbowl comes around, the trophy will be here in Danville.”
Hightower scored a team-high 26 points and had eight rebounds to go with three assists and three steals after scoring a combined 13 points in the first two games of the tournament. He said the improvement came down to simply altering his mental approach, and also competing against former high school teammate D’Lando Carter.
“Yesterday, I wasn’t really in a rhythm,” Hightower said. “I just came just to be playing. Today, I came with a different mindset with D’Lando Carter on the other team. I just came out prepared and played hard.
“I think everybody in town wanted to see (the matchup against Carter) because we were on the same team for so long and everybody wanted to see what we could do apart from each other. Today, we just came out and played hard against each other.”
While Hightower earned MVP honors by putting on the best performance for the winning team, he was actually outscored by Carter who scored a game-high 33 points.
Carter scored 10 in the first half before erupting for 23 in the second, missing only four of his 11 shot attempts. He also drained eight of nine free throw attempts. Though Carter’s second-half effort was impressive, the deficit was simply too great for Indy Stars to overcome.
O.J. Harrison scored 18 for Leek and Son’s with six of his seven baskets scored on dunks, and Lewis Jackson and Andrews Coleman scored 11 and 12 points respectively.
Leek and Son’s led by as many as 23 points late in the first half and gave little chance for Indy Stars to make a comeback.
University of Indianapolis forward Joe Lawson scored 21 and had 14 rebounds for Indy Stars, and Will O’Neal put up 15 and grabbed 10 boards.