As I walked out of the Lumen Christi High School gym on Thursday night following Round 2 of the City Championship series between the Titans and Jackson High, someone up in the stands blew a whistle. How fitting…
In a war of attrition with the regular season winding down, Lumen Christi capped off a season sweep of the Vikings in an 88-80 slugfest.
But oh how the whistles blew…
Unofficially the Titans racked up 29 fouls – including 16 in the second half – but rode a dominant 29-15 second quarter to the win and overcome a brilliant performance by Jackson’s mercurial senior forward Michael Johnson.
“We don’t win this game without our second unit,” junior guard Khari Willis said. “Fouls played a role on both sides tonight and we had to adjust. Our second unit really stepped up and helped us finish this off.”
A big part of that second unit is Henry Berkemeier, and not just because the junior is 6’5. With Titan big men Matt Bullinger and Demarian Snellenberger missing chunks of time in foul trouble, Berkemeier logged heavy minutes and helped man the front line.
“This is what my teammates are counting on me to do,” Berkemeier said. “When guys in front of me get in foul trouble or need to come out, it’s my job to go in there and keep things going.”
Berkemeir was the fourth Titan in double figures with 10 points.
“Winning the City Championship and sweeping the series with Jackson is huge for us,” he said. “We knew they’d come out and play hard tonight and they did that. We just had to have everybody pitch in.”
And the Titans (19-1) certainly did, even while having two starters (Snellenberger and Coley Crowley) foul out and four more players (Berkemeier, Bullinger, Willis and Tyler Moser) finishing with four.
“We have to adjust when guys get into foul trouble,” senior guard Devin Edwards said. “When we get different player combinations on the floor it’s up to myself and Khari to be the steadying force to keep everything under control.”
The former Viking (who wasn’t eligible to play the first time the teams met this year) keyed a game opening 7-0 run with an early three pointer and hit three more in the half to finish with 20 points.
He briefly left the game late in the fourth quarter in a flurry where he dove for a loose ball, managed to save it and fling a no-look pass to Bullinger for a basket, before crashing to the court.
“I’m fine,” he smiled when asked about having to come out. “It meant a lot to win the game – but that’s for us as a team. This wasn’t about Devin Edwards having a big game against his old team, it was about the Titans winning the city championship and getting ready for the state tournament.”
Willis led the Titans with 24 points while Bullinger added 20.
It was enough to overcome the magnificent play of Johnson, who led all scorers with 26 points, including an astounding 16 from the free throw line. Nate Campbell scored 20 (9 from the free throw line) for the Vikings (7-13) and Isaac Coppage added 17.