Chapman: Hanneman gym like ‘Hoosier Heaven’
You missed a really good one if you weren’t in attendance for the No. 1 Rugby Panthers vs. No. 2 Four Winds-Minnewaukan Indians in boys basketball on Tuesday.
Charles Hanneman Gymnasium – the “Charlie” as KZZJ Radio’s Carl Hauser put it – was rockin’. The place was packed, the place was loud and the place proved a great environment for the biggest Class B game all season.
It wasn’t quite Hinkle Fieldhouse and Milan High School’s 1954 Indiana State Championship game, but it had that classic feel portrayed in the 1986 film ‘Hoosiers.’
RHS built leads of 16 points on two occasions in the second half and held off the FW-M rally for a 76-66 win. The undefeated Panthers picked up win No. 17 ahead of Thursday’s regular season finale against Benson County.
Four Winds put up a great fight, but ultimately suffered the same fate as every other team to face RHS. The Panthers are just that good this season.
RHS junior forward Brad Heidlebaugh played the role of Jimmy Chitwood with another remarkable double-double. This time he had 29 points and 16 rebounds and hit the shot that drew the most bonkers reaction all night.
FW-M made its last push with consecutive baskets by senior guard Hadley Smith. With 3 minutes, 24 seconds left in the game, Smith’s fourth 2-pointer of the fourth quarter cut the RHS lead to 69-62. The three bus loads of Four Winds followers were a factor again.
Heidlebaugh, who scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, calmly hit a fadeaway jumper from the right wing to beat the shot-clock buzzer on the next possession. The RHS faithful exploded and the building seemed to shake as the last bit of momentum for the visitors was obliterated. The scene looked like one of the dizzying buzzer-beater videos captured on a cell phone and sent to SportsCenter. The play deserved to be in a top 10 somewhere.
The game was also an accurate portrayal of what the Panthers have done nearly every game to prove they are without a doubt the group to beat this year. Heidlebaugh led the way as he usually does and a well-balanced attack provided matchup issues all night.
Senior guard Jaedon Haman took his turn as the breakout role player and scored 13 points, more than double his average. Nine came in the third quarter when Heidlebaugh scored just two points. Haman took the ball to the rim with the confidence of a regular scorer and served as yet another example of why Rugby may have the most dangerous starting five in the state.
Some games it’s Tanner Bernhardt or Chris Hamilton lighting it up from outside. On other nights, Zach Miller’s soft touch from the block to elbow is unstoppable. We’re fortunate to be witnessing something very special right now. These Panthers are looking as capable as any before to snag the program’s first state title since 1962.
The best part of this team might not even be its dominant skill on the floor. The Panthers and coach Mike Santjer have conducted themselves like gentlemen all year. They focus and play hard no matter how overmatched the opponent is and the hardwork mentality is paying off.
Congrats to the Panthers on an incredible regular season.