BY CHAD DARE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — DANVILLE — Sometimes being bigger is just better.
That was the case in the championship game of the 2014 Vermilion County Tournament at the David S. Palmer Arena.
Bismarck-Henning, featuring a 6-foot-8 Wilde Garowski and a 6-foot-5 Andy Bott, put the defensive clamps on the Westville Tigers as the Blue Devils won their fifth County Title with a 40-26 victory on Saturday night.
“I thought our defensive execution was one of the best efforts that we’ve given all year,’’ Bismarck-Henning coach Jon Clapp said. “We had a lot of communication and our rotations in the defensive scheme were excellent. It seemed like we had hands up against their shooters.’’
But, what allowed Bismarck-Henning’s 2-3 zone to be so effective as Westville made just 3-of-25 shots (9 percent) in the first three quarters.
“Our overall length,’’ Clapp said. “When you can parade out a 6-8 guy, a 6-5 guy and a 6-2 guy along the backside of the zone, and then your guards can be out front putting the pressure on — that length is a factor.’’
And not only did the three guys on the backside, Garowski, Bott and Chase Connelly, control the baseline, but that trio also took control of the rebounds as they combined for 25 with Garowski pulling down a game-high 11 for the Blue Devils (17-1 overall).
“Our goal was not to let them get any inside shots against,’’ Connelly said. “When we took away the inside game from them, it forced them to shoot from the perimeter. They really didn’t any 3-pointers until the fourth quarter.’’
The Tigers (10-8) did rally in the final eight minutes, making three 3-pointers and forcing the Blue Devils seven turnovers, but it was too little, too late for Westville.
“Their length cause problems,’’ Westville coach Jeff Millis said. “They made it very difficult to score inside. When you can’t score inside, it then allows their defensive perimeter to extend. They are long team and they made us shoot the ball a step farther out than we would like or a little quicker than we wanted. We didn’t take any bad shots, they just didn’t go in.’’
In Thursday’s victory over Salt Fork (40-39), Millis said his team made to adjustments to counter the Storm’s Max Stutsman, a 6-foot-5 center. Did the Tigers need to do something similar on Saturday night?
“No, because Bismarck was playing a zone,’’ Millis said. “We’ve played against a lot of zone this year and we have really played well against a zone until tonight.
“That’s because we haven’t played against a zone with a 6-8 kid and a 6-5 kid standing inside. That makes a difference.’’
Clapp added that Westville is a team that likes to get penetration and then hit short jumpers.
“Our goal with the zone was trying to force them out of their comfort zone,’’ he said. “Because of our length, they couldn’t drive as far and they had to shoot a few more feet away from the basket.’’
Not only did the Bismarck-Henning length play a major role on the defensive end, but those same three guys had a hand in getting the Blue Devils a 12-4 lead in the first quarter.
Connelly, Garowski and Bott all three had an offensive rebound basket in the first four minutes of the contest, giving Bismarck-Henning an 8-4 lead before Millis called a 30-second timeout.
“We really worked on trying to eliminate that,’’ said Millis, whose team was out-rebouned 31-14 in the contest. “The big kid (Garowski) will shot and get his own miss a lot.
“We also felt it was important to get out early and play with them. We really didn’t do that and we had to play from behind the whole game.’’
Bismarck-Henning sophomore guard Dylan Allen set the tone for the Blue Devils after the opening four minutes. Allen had a pair of driving baskets in the first quarter as part of his 10 points and he also dished out five assists in the contest.
“Dylan did an excellent job of getting us into our offense,’’ Clapp said. “We were a little quick early, but he did a good job of knowing when to attack and when to drop it off.’’
Connelly shared team-high scoring honors with Allen as he had 10 points, while Garowski had seventh points to go along with his game-high 11 rebounds.
“When you have size like that inside, it’s an asset no matter what,’’ Clapp said.
According to Allen, this victory was motivated by last year’s loss to Westville, 43-39 in overtime, for the pool championship. The Tigers went on to win their 17th County Title a year ago.
“This means a lot, especially after getting beat by them last year,’’ he said. “It was motivation for us all week and we really wanted to beat them this year for the County Title.
“It’s also important to get the seniors a County Title as well.’’
It’s the fifth time for Bismarck-Henning, which also won the County Championship in 2012. The school also claimed the girls title on Friday night as the Blue Devils defeated the Armstrong-Potomac Trojans 41-36.
Bismarck-Henning had three players make the all-tournament team, Allen, Connelly and Wilde Garowski, while Thompson and Brazas were selected from Westville. Rounding out the team were Salt Fork seniors Ross Learnard and Max Stutsman, Hoopeston Area senior Mason Layden, Oakwood junior Parker Lee and Georgetown-Ridge Farm junior Rylee Goodwin.