Ultimately, Smith had five and Juswon had 17

Marion storms back to beat Bosse in 3A state championship game

INDIANAPOLIS A few inches might have separated Bosse High School’s boys’ basketball team from a Class 3A state championship and a second place trophy on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

As it turned out, Reggie Jones hit four free throws in the final 20 seconds to spark Marion to a 73 68 victory.

“This is going to hurt for a while,” said Bosse coach Shane Burkhart, choking back tears. “When they take their jerseys off, I’m going to tell them I love them.”

Mekhi Lairy made both ends of the one and bonus free throw situation to narrow the Bulldogs’ deficit to 69 68 with 1:34 remaining. Marion’s Vijay Blackmon missed a jumper in the lane.

At the other end, Erik Bell found Quentavian Stewart underneath. His basket would’ve given the Bulldogs a one point lead with 1:01 left, but was waved off because it was ruled that he was standing on the end line.

“I drew up the play and Erik Bell got him the ball,” Burkhart said. “Unfortunately he put himself in the wrong position. It was all my fault.”

Jones then hit a pair of foul shots to put the Giants in front 71 68 with 17.9 seconds showing. Bell missed the front end of the one and bonus with 11 seconds left.

Jones, who finished with 25 points for Marion (23 7), hit two more free throws with 9.2 seconds to play to seal the win.

Trailing 35 25 at the half, Marion set a Class 3A state championship game record with a 31 point outburst in the third period. Ironically, it broke the record of 30, set by Bosse in the 2007 title game against Plymouth.

“This was the first time we were down at half and in the locker room I told the guys we had to pick it up,” said Jones, who was 10 for 10 from the line and had eight rebounds.

Marion was 9 for 10 from the field in making its third quarter surge.

“We came out with back to back turnovers and ‘Reg’ hit a couple of really good jumpers,” Burkhart said. “When Juswon (White) hit a 3 and the end of the third quarter and Jordan (Smith) hit a three, there’s your 6 point deficit (56 50).”

Burkhart said his players “were terrific. We stuck to our game plan.”

He did not want Jones, Tim Leavell and Vijay Blackmon to beat the Bulldogs. The latter two were held relatively in check, with 14 and 12 points.

“We wanted their other two young men (Smith and White) to beat us. Ultimately, Smith had five and Juswon had 17. If we were going to get beat, that was the direction we want to get beat in. In my eyes, Juswon was the MVP. Reggie hit a lot of shots and a lot of free throws, but the young man with 17 turned the tables.”

Mekhi Lairy had a game high 28 for Bosse (19 11), which advanced to the state championship game after a 4 6 start. When asked about bouncing back after a 4 point performance in the Bulldogs’ 74 71 double overtime victory over Tri West in the Seymour Semistate, Lairy said: “My coaches and teammates told me to stay confident and keep shooting.”

The Bulldogs’ Ethan Thomas won the Arthur L. Trester Mental Attitude Award. He ranks 21st in his class and has a 3.56 GPA while playing three sports. He said it was a matter of working hard “day in and day out.”

Bosse used its depth, quickness and resilience to race to a 10 point halftime lead. But Marion’s overall talent level eventually wore down the Bulldogs.

## ## “We love each other,” Thomas said. “At the end of the day, we lost. This was a big stage for us. We showed (we belonged).”

Burkhart was coaching against his hometown team. Not only did Burkhart play for the Giants, he was their assistant coach for four seasons before succeeding Jeff Hein at Bosse following the 2007 season. But he continually maintained the game was all about his Bosse players, not about him.

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