Kats are headed to state
Kokomo outlasts Penn, 58-57
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Two of the best high school basketball teams in the state. Two of the best players. The IHSAA boys basketball north 4A semi-state final in Michigan City on March 18 promised to be a game for the ages. Neither team disappointed.
The No. 4-ranked Kokomo Wildkats finished on top, however, in a game that stayed close from tip-off to final buzzer. They prevailed over the No. 2-ranked Penn Kingsmen, 58-57, punching their tickets for the state championship in Indianapolis on March 25.
The Kats were led by 6-10 phenom Flory Bidunga, who registered the 50th double-double of his two-year career with 25 points and 22 rebounds. He did so in the face of Penn’s pair of 6-8 inside men, proving that it isn’t just height that makes Bidunga one of the most highly recruited players in the nation.
Shayne Spear added 10 for the Kats, including five of the most important points of his career. His buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of the third quarter gave Kokomo a 46-43 lead and momentum going into the fourth. And his radar-locked free throws with 10.9 left on the clock all but assured the win.
Seniors Zavion Bellamy and Patrick Hardimon each added eight points in the victory.
Hardimon had the toughest assignment of the night: guarding Penn’s Markus Burton. The 6-1 guard is considered a favorite for Indiana’s Mr. Basketball title and will suit up for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish next year. Despite averaging more than 30 points a game, Burton’s 27 points on Saturday night could only keep his team close, but not prevail.
The Wildkats (24-4) advance to the state finals for ninth time in school history. There, they will face undefeated, No. 1-ranked, Ben Davis (32-0), a perennial powerhouse that handed Kokomo a 58-51 loss on Dec. 3. Like the state finals, that game was played on a neutral court. Unlike the state finals, the Kats played without Spear and his 11 points-per-game average that night.
Kokomo advanced to the semi-state finals with a 73-51 win over Fort Wayne Wayne in the morning session on March 18. Bidunga exploded in that game, scoring 31 points to go with 19 rebounds and eight blocks. Spear added 16 points and five rebounds.
Make sure to check out these photos and many more of both semi-state games on the Kokomo Lantern’s Facebook page and group.
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