There was no denying these Lakers from La Lumiere, Ind.
Especially their twin towers. Isaiah Stewart, their 6-foot-9 rim protector, scored 24 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, and 6-8 Keion Brooks added 17 points and six boards as No. 6 La Lumiere overpowered No. 20 Oak Ridge (Orlando, Fla.) 72-58 to claim at least part of the ‘Iolani Prep Classic championship on Saturday night.
With the win, there was only a question of whether La Lumiere would be co-champion. If Sierra Canyon lost to Montverde in the final game of the tournament, La Lumiere would be outright champion. It was an unusual circumstance because CIF teams, including Sierra Canyon, are not allowed to play independent teams like La Lumiere.
“It doesn’t matter to me. We’re the best in the country. I’m just proud we’re champs at the end of the day,” Stewart said.
“I’ll do whatever it takes for my team to win,” said point guard Wendell Green, the catalyst. “We respect every team. We know Oak Ridge is a good team. I’d rather be No. 1 on top, but Sierra Canyon is a good team, so whatever happens, happens.”
All the Lakers know is they went 4-0 this week in the nation’s premier preseason tournament.
“We had a great win yesterday,” Stewart said, referring to a 58-51 win over No. 1 Montverde. “We had to find something deep within us because playing all these games definitely took a toll on the body. After that Montverde game we had to find something.”
A packed house saw the Lakers go toe to toe with the Pioneers and their stellar forward, Christopher Walker, who finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists. The lanky, tough and versatile 6-9 Walker helped his team rally from a 22-14 deficit with an 8-0 run to begin the second quarter.
“He’s a big-time player. Very versatile. He can do a lot of things. We had to start switching,” Stewart said. “We really had to play defense.”
La Lumiere responded with a 17-4 blitzkrieg, dominating the paint. Stewart scored on back-to-back lobs from Green, and after Brooks scored four straight points, Stewart capped the run with a 23-foot trey from the top for a 39-26 lead shortly before the half.
By intermission, LaLu had a 21-10 edge in rebounds and had limited the Pioneers to 34-percent shooting from the field.
The Lakers turned up the intensity on defense after that. Oak Ridge shot 0-for-10 from the arc in the second half and finished the game 6-for-27 from deep.
“There’s a lot of things we could’ve done better on defense, but overall, we knew we had to be the harder playing team to win a championship,” said Gerald Drumgoole, a 6-5 guard. “We want to be No. 1. Best of luck to all the teams that were in this tournament, and best of luck to both teams that’s playing right now. If Sierra Canyon wins (against Montverde), congrats.”
Kaleb Coleman added 17 points for the Pioneers, who tried to make a run in the third quarter. La Lumiere committed five turnovers in the first four minutes of the third against Oak Ridge’s matchup zone, but the Pioneers never got closer than 10. The Lakers’ man-to-man defense was simply relentless.