KNOXVILLE — Getting a pair of key three-point early second-quarter baskets from back-up wing Owen Lentz during Webb School of Knoxville’s tight battle against Lipscomb Academy, another unsung Spartan stepped up to help his team lay a dominant fourth-quarter path to Cookeville.
Drake Ingram’s pair of three-point jumpers from the left corner, in front of a loud and boisterous Spartans student section, helped Ricky Norris’ boys (24-7) turn a 39-37 lead after three quarters into a 27-point fourth quarter and a 65-51 home victory in the Division II-AA state quarterfinals Saturday night, Feb. 25.
“Timely shots by Drake for sure,” Norris said. “I thought both of them were huge.”
Moreover, “Drake battled on the glass tonight, too, and defensively,” the coach added about the junior wing. “... He’s really come on as far as an all-around, complete player.”
Overall, “We knew it was going to be a street fight, and how physical they are and athletic they are,” said Norris, sending yet another of his Spartans teams to the “final four” state tourney this weekend at Tennessee Tech after getting past an LA team (15-15) that went cold, and became turnover prone, in the fourth quarter.
The coach said his star forward, Lukas Walls, “was battling” and “still pretty darn good” despite “not his best” in this game. The scoring machine senior contributed 18 points despite picking up his third foul with 4:32 left in the third quarter.
“I thought the key was, when Lukas got his third foul, we managed the game right there,” Norris said. “We had some young guys in there, and they kind of held the ship.”
“There wasn’t a lot of concern — I was just more mad at myself,” Walls said about the fouls. “But I knew my guys would have my back. I put all my trust in them, and they went forth and did it.”
Ingram scored 14 while Lentz added 12 for the winners, who travel to Tennessee Tech this weekend needing two wins to become state champs.
“Owen gave us a big spark ... we know that kid can play,” Norris said about the freshman wing. “He’s going to be dynamite by the time it’s over. He’s as good a shooter as there is around right now.”
“I think the key was just sticking together and being physical,” said Webb senior post John Tolsma, who scored six points while yanking down some key rebounds and playing solid defense.
“Rebounds were a really big factor in this game,” he added. “We came together and said we’re going to stop letting them get offensive rebounds, and that kind of changed the tide of the game.”
“I thought John Tolsma was gritty and gutsy,” Norris said. “He’s not going to stand out on a stat sheet, but I thought he gave us a lot.”
Guard Kaleb Blasley’s 14 points led Lipscomb.
“They made plays and we didn’t,” LA head coach Kevin Starks said. “Credit goes to those guys.
“We lost momentum.”
The Spartans play Brentwood Academy (28-3) in the state semifinals at Tennessee Tech beginning at 6 p.m., EST, Friday, March 3. The winner faces the MBA (22-5) versus Briarcrest (32-3) survivor in the title game starting at 7:30 p.m. EST, Saturday, March 4.