|Lipan state champs!Indians first team in Hood County to win state title|
Hood County News
Wednesday, March 18, 1994
AUSTIN—Things will never be the same around ol’ Lipan again.
Saturday morning the Lipan Indians won their first—and Hood County’s first—team state championship with a 62-60 victory over Nazareth in the Class A finals.
“I’ll guarantee you people are going to look at Lipan a little differently now,” Indians head coach Tommy Bleeker said. When told that one sports writer continually mispronounced the town’s name (“Lip-pun” instead of “LI-pan”), Bleeker added, “I think we changed that to LI-pan for everybody.”
The Indians, who stayed an extra night in Austin Saturday to spend one last moment together—and, ironically, its first moments without having the pressure to win another game on their shoulders—at The Wyndham in Austin.
Sunday morning the newly-crowned state champions headed for home. By the time they got back to the county’s northern-most town, they were the features in a pick-up drawn parade trailer on their way to a barbecue meal – courtesy of their fans.
“It’s a good thing that spring break is this week because we wouldn’t have gotten much done,” Bleeker said.
The closest Hood County had ever come to a team state championship was the 1954 Granbury mile-relay team of B. F. Liles, Theron Don Tankersley, Tommy Davis, and E. H. Davis. Despite winning the AA state race, it is not considered a team event since track keeps a separate team points category.
Lipan had never played in the state title game until Saturday. The Granbury girls played three times for the championship (1953, 1954, and 1978) and the Granbury football team played once (1966).
10A March 16, 1994
1994 State Champions!
Indians 62, Swifts 60
Indians slow Nazareth for title, Chandler wins MVP
by Buck Cargal
Austin—It is done.
An eight-year mission—a dream hatched when most of them were still in grade school—came to a storybook ending Saturday as the Lipan Indians claimed the Class A state basketball championship with a fairly-routine 62-60 victory over the Nazareth Swifts at the Erwin Special Events Center.
“I guess if this were Hollywood, they have to make a movie about it,” Lipan senior forward T. J. Bleeker said after the Indians became the first Hood County team to win a state championship. “It ended just the way we wanted it to end—with a win.”
The Indians struggled in the first quarter but outplayed the Swifts the rest of the way. Except for a quick 10-point Nazareth run in the third quarter to force the game’s only tie, the Indians dominated.
Jeremy Pierson, who joined the Indians last season after transferring from Gordon, hit what proved to be the state championship points for Lipan. Pierson hit a 7-foot banker on the left side with 1:07 remaining, giving the Indians a 61-55 lead.
Nazareth trailed by at least six points for most of the fourth quarter. The Swifts managed to cut the final margin only after capitalizing on four missed Lipan free throws in the last two minutes.
“This team has more heart than any team here—1A through 5A,” said Lipan point guard Cody Chandler, who scored 26 points to earn the most valuable player award. “We’ve wanted this for so long, there was nothing that was going to stop us. We missed a few free throws, but we had the confidence that no matter what happened we were going to be the winners.”
The Indians, who finished the year with a 35-3 record, were presented with “gold” medals during a half-time ceremony in the succeeding Class 3A state championship game.
Medals were presented to: seniors Chris Tarpley, Wade Redwine, Jason Miller, Bleeker, and Chandler; Pierson, a junior; sophomores Eric Szostek, Johnny Spikes, Junior Fergueson, Les Branson, Johnny Eades, and Joe Patino; freshmen Clint Ledbetter and Will Bailey; statisticians Jim Williamson and Larry Lacey; assistant coach Ed Ledbetter; and head coach Tommy Bleeker.
“This is the greatest thing I’ve ever been through in basketball,” Tommy Bleeker said, pacing back and forth in the locker room as if not knowing how else to control his excitement. “I just can’t describe what a great feeling this is.”
The Swifts, making their fourth championship game appearance, received “silver” medals as state runners-up for the third time with a 33-6 record. Nazareth won the 1986 championship game over Archer City 53-49.
“We had our chances to win, but you have to give Lipan all the credit for making the plays they needed to win,” Nazareth coach Mark Makeever said. “They have a spectacular point guard and some great players to go around him.”
Media votes selected Chandler as the game’s most valuable. Chandler was also the only player to be selected unanimously to the all-tournament team. He was joined on that team by Pierson.
“There’s probably not a better player in Texas than Cody Chandler,” Tommy Bleeker said. “I think the rest of Texas saw what they’ve missed out on today and Thursday. But we’ve got a lot of other great players, too, guys that have contributed when we needed it and helped us win a lot of games. Today, I thought T. J.’s offensive rebounds and three-pointer got us going. Clint and Jeremy hit some big shots. Chris made some big plays, and Cody carried us the rest of the way.”
T. J. Bleeker, who finished with 12 points, came up with two offensive rebounds and two putback lay-ups to give Lipan its first two leads at 4-3 and 14-13.
The second putback was the wakeup call that got the Indians going. After calling time-out and coming back from an 11-4 deficit in slow fashion, Bleeker’s bucket was the spring board that launched the Indians into a higher gear—a gear with which the Swifts could not consistently keep pace.
“The Santo coach told us that (in the 1990 championship game) they came out nervous and that we should not do that,” said Chandler, who scored the last four points of the first quarter to pull Lipan within 11-8. But I think we were nervous. During the time-out we said we have to start being scrappy, start playing Lipan basketball. Once we started being scrappy, that was it.”
Chandler followed Bleeker’s go-ahead basket with a stop-and-pop 9 footer. The Indians and Swifts traded the lead three times during the next three minutes.
But—as Chandler said—that was it for Nazareth.
The Swifts took their last lead at 22-21 on a pair of Colby Pohlmeier free throws with 2:46 left in the first half.
Lipan scored nine unanswered points from there to take a 30-22 half-time advantage. The final seven of those points were by Chandler, who yelled to teammates “They can’t stop me” after hitting two straight jumpers.
Ledbetter, who finished with 10 points, caught a Szostek airball and put in the lay-up for a Lipan lead. Chandler drove right to the baseline for a pull-up from 9 feet, hit a 6-foot turnaround in the lane and added three free throws before the intermission.
“I sometimes get like that,” Chandler said. “I took a couple of shots in the second quarter that I wouldn’t normally take. The guy covering me couldn’t stop me, and whenever they tried to double-team me it just meant that somebody else was going to be open for a lay-up.”
Chandler started the second half the same way he ended the first—scoring almost at will. His three-point play on the drive down the right baseline gave Lipan it’s biggest lead of the game at 33-22 with 6:46 left in the third quarter.
Nazareth’s Nick Johnson, who joined Chandler and Pierson on the all tournament team, canned a three-pointer from the right wing that got the Swifts going briefly.
Following Pierson’s putback of a Chandler miss, Johnson hit a free throw to start a 10-point Nazareth run to tie the game at 35-35 with 4:13 left in the quarter.
Justin Wethington hit two baseline jumpers, one for three points and the other from 13 feet. Gaylon Schilling, an all-tourney team member, backed his way in for two before Wethington hit a 6-footer on the break to tie the game.
Lipan, which had committed three straight turnovers during the run before Chandler missed on drive down the right side, used its first time-out with 4:10 left.
After the time-out, the Indians put Nazareth back in the hole swiftly.
Ledbetter, taking a pass from Tarpley on the left wing, sank a 4-foot turnaround.
Chandler hit a fallaway 6-footer on the right baseline, then hit a popup 15-foot jumper on the right side for a three-point play to give Lipan a 42-37 lead with 2:41 left in the period.
Bleeker, whose rebounds started the Indians in the first half and whose long-distance jumpers ignited runs in the semifinal win over Anderson-Shiro, closed the quarter with a three-pointer from the left wing.
Ledbetter started the fourth quarter with back-to-back buckets for a 49-41 lead with 7:11 remaining. The freshman hit an inbound fallaway from 7 feet and an 8-foot turnaround.
Schilling’s three-point play kept Nazareth within striking distance, but Tarpley cashed in on a project he had been working out on the wing during the second half.
After getting a pair of assists on entry passes from the same position, Tarpley took the ball above the right arc. Making a quick shuffle step and breaking free of a grasp on his jersey, Tarpley beat Wethington. Tarpley motored own the baseline, going airborne across the lane.
Johnson stepped up to seal any shot attempt at the near side of the bucket. So Tarpley went underneath the bucket and put in a reverse lay-up with 6:24 left for a 51-44 lead.
Johnson’s three-pointer pulled Nazareth within 55-50 with 3:40 remaining, but the Indians pulled another dazzling play out of their pockets that had the crowd of 9,727 oohing and aahing.
Chandler, in possession on the right wing, began to dribble across the top of the arc while Pierson came out to the near elbow as if to set a screen.
As Chandler passed Pierson, he handed the junior the ball, Statue-of-Liberty style. The Swifts were caught dumbfounded as Pierson rolled down the right side of the lane for an easy lay-up and 57-50 lead.
Two missed free throws allowed Nazareth to pull within 59-55 with 1:31 remaining. Wethington hit a 14-footer before fouling out and Schilling added a pair of free throws.
Chandler hit Pierson on the right side and the junior faced up on Schilling. Pierson, who had been held to only six points and six shots after scoring 24 in the semifinals, went over Schilling and cleanly banked home for a 7-footer from right of the lane for a 61-55 lead with 1:07 remaining.
Pierson’s bucket would prove to be the winning points, but the Swifts had two chances to get the lead in the closing minute as Lipan had trouble hitting its free throws.
Johnson hit a three-pointer to pull Nazareth within 61-58 after the Swifts got the ball back when a rebound went out of bounds. Using their last time-out with 51.6 seconds remaining, Nazareth decided to play tough defense and foul only if necessary. Chandler, who hit one-of-two 43 seconds earlier, was a prime target.
The Indians played for the sure shot, but Ledbetter’s 3-footer bounced off the rime and the Swifts had a chance to cut into the lead or tie. Nazareth went for the tie as Schilling launched a three-pointer from the left wing.
But Chandler, leaping at Schilling while coming over from the free throw line, got a piece of the ball and the Indians came up with possession.
Nazareth sent Chandler to the line with 31.9 seconds left. Chandler’s shot on the front end of the one-and-one bounced off and the Swifts had another chance.
Again, Nazareth went for the tie. Johnson missed a three-pointer from the right wing and the ball bounced out of bounds to Lipan.
Tarpley hit the front end of a one-and-one with 17.8 seconds remaining for a 62-58 lead.
Tommy Bleeker instructed his team not to foul, even if it meant giving up an uncontested lay-up. Scott Brockman missed a three-pointer and the Swifts got the easy putback with 2.1 seconds remaining.
Without a time-out to stop the clock, the Swifts were left helpless as time ran out and the Indian bench swarmed the court in celebration.
Junior Jeremy Pierson: “This is the greatest feeling of my life. I’m ready to come back next year and try to defend No. 1.”
Senior Chris Tarpley: “It was…well, almost kind of blank. I didn’t really know what to think. I got up this morning thinking this was the end. I’m just glad we did it.”
Senior T. J. Bleeker: “If it’s got to end, it should end this way. There’s only one way to end it—winning a state championship…If this were Hollywood, I guess they would have to make a movie about it.”
Assistant boys’ coach and head girls’ coach Ed Ledbetter: “I’m ready to do this next year with our girls’ team. I’d like to do this twice next year.”
Coach Tommy Bleeker: “I’m not going to think about next year for a while. We’re going to take a few days off, take spring break off, and then get started on next year. We’ll sure miss these seniors, but we’re not losing everybody. And I can promise you we will be bringing these guys back for some pep talks.”
Sophomore Eric Szostek: “Exciting! Unbelievable! Wow, we’re state champs!”
Senior Cody Chandler: Cody Chandler scored 26 points to earn most valuable player honors and unanimous selection to the all-tournament team. When told in the lockerroom that he could expect the MVP award, Chandler replied, “Who cares?! This is the greatest right here.”
Coach Tommy Bleeker and Senior Cody Chandler: Coach Tommy Bleeker told Chandler he expects to see him in 2019 (teams are reunited on the 25th anniversaries of their championships). “I’ll be coaching a team,” Chandler said. “Maybe we’ll be coaching against each other,” Bleeker replied.
Transcribed by James Timothy Sears on February 21, 2000