NORTH MANCHESTER — Prior to the start of the season Jon Kitchel knew his team was lacking size and would have to rely on speed and strong leadership for a successful season.
The Kings have relied on that formula all season with good results finishing 17-2 heading into sectional play.
Going up against the Wabash Apaches in their opening game at the Class 2A Manchester Sectional Wednesday night, the Kings once again relied on the things that got them to the dance as they turned away the Apaches 74-60.
The No. 7-ranked Kings (18-2) face Manchester (16-5) in the 7:30 p.m. semifinal Friday.
The final score doesn’t reflect how close this game was as the Kings were repeatedly sent to the free-throw line late in the fourth quarter. Solid shooting from at the stripe helped Lewis Cass extend the lead they held over Wabash (9-12).
The Kings came out of the gate running and quickly let Wabash know they were going to dictate the pace of the game. Offensively, the Kings pushed the ball up the floor and on defense their fullcourt press gave the Apaches fits time and again.
A Ryan Bixler steal and a feed to a streaking Austin Keisling gave the Kings an early lead of 13-6 at the 2:51 mark of the first quarter. Moments later Evan Ohman was fouled on a 3-point attempt and hit 2 of 3 free throws making it 15-6 game. But the last 2:23 of the quarter the Apaches held Cass scoreless while dropping in six points to make it 15-12 after one quarter of play.
When play resumed in the second quarter Cass quickly went on the attack and within a minute went on a 5-0 run before the Apaches found the basket. The Lewis Cass guards started breaking down the Apaches defense and were able to penetrate deep into the lane for easy baskets or dumping the ball off for an open shot. In doing so it didn’t take the Kings long to extend their lead to double digits and by the end of the second it was the Kings in front 36-24.