Lions out-bulldog Orleans to win sectional

Mar. 6—LOOGOOTEE — For the 31st time, Loogootee will hold the title IHSAA champion. The Lions avenged a 4-OT loss to Orleans earlier in the year with a defensive battle that allowed the Lions to hold on for the 41-34 win.

The Lions added a double figure night with 15 from Peyton Bledsoe and 11 from Isaac Eagle to provide enough of an offensive spark to bring home the first sectional since 2017.

"This was one of the most physical sectional finals I've seen but give the officials credit, they didn't call a lot of 'tick-tack' fouls. I thought we showed a lot of toughness. I challenged them earlier in the year to show a lot more toughness and they responded," said LHS coach Ryan Haywood.

"I thought we played really good defense tonight and thought we did a good job finding the shooter. We got a lot of help from Isaac (Eagle) early on and Peyton did a great job closing for us. Isaac has been a real monster for us in the last few weeks."

The Lions held No. 2 Orleans to just 10 points through three quarters, but the 'Dogs outscored No. 4 Loogootee 24-19 in the final eight minutes to just about complete the comeback, but the Lions got just enough free throw shooting to secure the win. Also scoring for the Lions was Drew Walker with nine, Parker Arvin with four and Leighton Jeffers with two.

Both teams started slowly without a bucket for the first three minutes, and the only scoring was a pair of Isaac Eagle free throws. With just under three minutes to play in the quarter, Bulldog Xavier Alston hit the first bucket of the night, but Eagle followed up with two free throws and a basket to make it 6-2, which is how the quarter ended, with just two total baskets.

Turnovers continued to be a factor in the second quarter, as Eagle added three more and Alston posted a basket for Orleans to make it 9-4. The Bulldogs pulled to within two, but Bledsoe knocked his first basket of the night. Orleans again got within a point, but Parker Arvin added a basket to finish off the half up 13-10.

Alston picked up two quick fouls for Orleans and found himself on the bench with four, less than two minutes into the half. Arvin and Bledsoe extended it to 17-10. Walker made it 20-10 with a trey as the Lions went on a 9-0 run to start the third quarter. Bledsoe added his sixth point as, LHS finished off the third with a 22-10 margin, and shutting out the Bulldogs during the quarter.

The extreme physical nature of the game continued into the fourth quarter. Orleans pulled to within eight with 5:30 left in the game. OHS cut it to four at 26-22. Bledsoe gave LHS some breathing room, but Alston used an and-1 to cut it to three with 2:30 left, but again Bledsoe responded. Walker added a big basket to make it 35-29 with :55 left to go. However, Orleans added four unanswered points, before Walker and Bledsoe were able to finish off the 41-34 win from the free throw line and send them to the Loogootee Regional next Saturday. The Lions will play Blue Chip foe Northeast Dubois, currently slated for the 4 p.m. game.