2011-12 Class A State Finals Recap

March 24, 2012

Loogootee Holds Off Rockville for School's First State Championship
The Loogootee Lions stayed patient and poised in the Class A boys basketball final and garnered the first state championship in any sport for their school.

Coach Mike Wagoner's Lions, ranked No. 7, weathered a strong fourth-quarter comeback by sixth-ranked Rockville and captured a 55-52 victory in the state title game. It was Loogootee's third appearance in the final game and first since 2005.

Coach Dave Mahurin's Rox battled to the end despite shooting just 32.7 percent (16-of-49), including 20 percent (5-of-25) from the 3-point line. Rockville tied the game at 50-all and 52-all and missed a 3-pointer in the final second to knot it again.

Loogootee connected on only one field goal in the final five minutes, but it was a big one as Will Nonte scored on a fast break to put the Lions up 54-53 with 17.6 seconds left. The Lions hit 12 of 14 free throws in the final 5:13, including one by Bryant Ackerman with 4.3 seconds left to provide the winning margin.

Loogootee, which finished 22-4, led by as much as 11 points in the first half. Conner Wittmer topped the Lions in scoring with 16 despite early foul trouble. Ackerman scored 15 points with 12 rebounds. Matt Mathies had 13 points.

Rockville completed its season at 22-6. The Rox hadn't made a state finals appearance since 1918. The 94-year span between their trips ranks as the longest in state history.

Lane Mahurin and Gary Ulrich led Rockville with 14 points apiece. Jordan McFall added 12.

Rockville’s Matt Wheeler Named Trester Mental Attitude Award Winner
Following the game, members of the IHSAA Executive Committee named Matt Wheeler of Rockville High School as the winner of the Arthur L. Trester Mental Attitude Award in Class A Boys Basketball.

Wheeler ranks seventh in his senior class of 52 students. He serves as senior class vice president, National Honor Society treasurer and is a member of the Student Council and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He’s also received Distinguished Honor Roll recognition from his school.

Besides playing four seasons of basketball, Wheeler has been a member of the golf and tennis teams for three years and ran one year of cross country. He was all-conference in tennis and was a regional qualifier.

He intends to enter the ministry and begin his studies at Johnson University.

He is the son of Ronald and Mary-Kay Wheeler of Rockville.

The award is annually presented to a senior participant in the state finals who best demonstrates mental attitude, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability and is named after the IHSAA’s first commissioner who served the Association from 1929 to 1944.

Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, the IHSAA’s corporate partner, presented a $1,000 scholarship to Rockville High School in the name of Wheeler.

Post-Game Comments

Loogootee Coach Mike Wagoner
“We knew Rockville was going to make a run at us. We hit enough free throws in the end to pull it out. I had a lot of faith in our free throw shooting.”

“I knew early we could score because we’ve got good shooters. We knew they would press us. If we could get ahead of the traps, we knew we could get layups. However, we threw the ball away uncharacteristically a couple of times.”

(On winning school’s first state championship in any sport)
“I am so happy for the players. They have worked so hard. We’ve been here three other times and didn’t get the job done. We were glad to do it today.”

“We had Conner (Wittmer) in foul trouble so we decided to shorten the game a little by going into the delay. We had an 11-point lead, but Rockville hit a couple of threes to make it closer. Give them a lot of credit. They didn’t quit. Don’t be surprised if Rockville is back here next year.”

“As a player (in 1975), it was exciting to be here. As an assistant coach in 2005 it was a lot of fun. This year, we knew we had a pretty good shot at winning state.”

Loogootee junior Conner Wittmer
(On winning state)
“Just being able to win it today was not only for us, but also our school and for the whole town. Everyone who’s ever worn a Loogootee jersey, this means so much because of our tradition.”

Rockville Coach Dave Mahurin
“It was certainly a much better second half than first. I’m just pleased we played and represented ourselves the best we could. We were very tentative, very nervous early in the game. I can’t ask for any more than they gave me and that was we had a chance to win the game. I’m very proud of them.”

(On defensive philosophy)
“We were trying to really, really get to their legs by pressuring them in the full court and trying to push (Loogootee’s Bryant) Ackerman left but he’s just so good. It’s easy to say it, it’s just hard to do it. Their big kid was just a handful for us inside.”

“The only thing we ever talk about being able to control is effort and we played with effort. I think we were down 11 and they had the ball and I looked up and thought ‘Hey, this may not be our day’ but these kids didn’t quit. They tied the game and had a shot late.”

“I think desperation was there for us. I think we finally quit thinking about where we were and we just played hard. It’s hard to dig yourself that big of a hole and be able to come back against that good of a program.”