LIZTON — Tri-West’s boys’ basketball team displayed a gritty determination that matched the T-shirts its crowd wore with the mantra “Tri-West Tough” for Pack the House night to support Coaches vs. Cancer. However, the visiting Speedway Sparkplugs overcame Tri-West’s efforts down the stretch to take a 59-51 victory.
“I thought our guys showed a lot of resolve in fighting back,” Tri-West coach Adam Bontreger said.
Free throws proved to be the key, as Speedway hit 18 of 28 for the game compared to Tri-West’s 4 of 10. The Bruins went to the line once in the first three quarters, missing both attempts. Speedway knocked down 10 of 16 in the fourth.
“That was, right there, in my opinion, the ballgame,” Bontreger said. “We don’t need to put ourselves in that position where it’s close and make sure we have a better first quarter than what we had.”
Tri-West led 2-1, then fell behind early after Speedway went on an 11-4 run to start the game and led 18-10 at the end of the first. Austin Musial scored Tri-West’s first six points until Nick Sprecher connected with 1:23 left in the quarter.
Tri-West stepped up its defense in the second period and did not allow a Sparkplugs basket until 2:30 remained in the quarter, but the Bruins could not pull any closer than five before the half.
Speedway’s Jordan Furlow hit three 3-pointers to lead the Sparkplugs with nine points at the break.
Speedway got off to another quick start in the third as it went on a 7-0 run and Tri-West trailed 34-22.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Trevor Waite started the Bruins on a comeback as Tri-West outscored Speedway 14-7 to end the third.
With the game at 41-36 headed to the fourth, Tri-West seized momentum and tied it at 43-43 before taking a 46-44 lead after another Waite 3 with 3:02 left.
Tri-West took its last lead at 48-46 before Speedway went on a 13-3 run to end the contest.
Tri-West (7-3) defeated Speedway (6-6) three of the last four times the teams had met. Waite led Tri-West with 22 points and Connor Miller finished with a double-double, scoring 12 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
Bontreger pointed to the toughness and resiliency of his squad in defeat as something Tri-West could take from the loss, especially senior Brant Gadberry, who played through a back injury.
“I just want to encourage the community to keep coming out to support this hard-working group,” Bontreger said. “It’s the type of group I think Tri-West is all about, and that’s where I got the idea of ‘Tri-West Tough.’ We’re hard-working individuals and we want to be a representation of our community.”
Tri-West went with the shirts during the national Coaches vs. Cancer campaign this week, raising money for a cause that’s at the forefront of Bontreger’s mind.
“Cancer has hit my family tough with my mother-in-law passing Wednesday to a three-and-a-half year battle with breast cancer,” Bontreger said. “It made it that much more of an initiative to be a part of.
“It’s something we want our kids to be aware of as they will get to play basketball for such a short time and we want to make them aware and remind them of what real life is all about.”
— Follow Hendricks County Flyer sports editor Jake Thompson on Twitter @JacobEThompson.