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Duneland Conference champs
Duneland Conference champs: The Chesterton boys basketball team won its
first-ever outright Duneland Athletic Conference championship on Friday night
with a 55-41 victory over Crown Point. Pictured are, front row (l to r) Head
Coach Tom Peller, Joey Stento and Tyler Nemtuda. Back row (l to r) are JV
Coach Mark Anderson, Asst. Coach Bob Nemtuda, Austin Bower, Alex Beierwalter,
Thomas Halpin, Zack Novak, Tommy Peller, Jack Houpt, Jordan Lewis, Juan
Monegro, John Thanos, Alec Houpt, Adam White, George Sanidas, Asst. Coach Tim
Krutz, Asst. Coach Paul Blosser, Manager Zach Post, Manager Robbie O’Hara and
Manager Mitchell Starnes. (Tribune photo by Margaret L. Willis)
By TR HARLAN
It’s hard to pick out a lucky number for the Chesterton boys basketball team.
It could be 3. It could be 4. It could be 1.
The Trojans wrapped up the school’s first-ever outright Duneland Athletic
Conference championship on Friday night with a 55-41 victory over Crown
“It’s so special and it’s something we dreamed about,” Chesterton coach Tom
Peller said. “It’s such a special feeling and I’m kind of at a loss for
“For us to get the first title in school history, it’s just really neat to be
a part of it. It’s all of us, the players, the coaches, the administrators,
the fans, the students, it’s really about all of us.”
It was the Trojans’ third attempt at the title after winning their first 16
games of the year.
“It was just an emotional game and I am so proud of these guys,” Peller said.
“We’ve gone through some adversity recently and we weathered the storm. We
came back with great emotion and intensity tonight.”
The Trojans got off to a hot start as Zack Novak hit a 3-pointer to start the
scoring and Austin Bower followed that up with a basket for a 5-0 lead.
“We had a lot of contributions from everybody,” Peller said. “We had three
guys in double figures with Zack leading us again.”
Bower, who was just four months and four days out of reconstructive knee
surgery, started at point guard for the Trojans and contributed 10 points,
two steals and two assists to the win.
“Austin Bower was outstanding tonight,” Peller said. “To come back from his
knee injury in football to tonight is incredible. His determination to come
back and be part of this team is great.”
“It was my goal to get back a couple games before the Sectional to come and
help the team,” Bower said. “There were points when I first got hurt that I
didn’t know if I would be back. The first few practices were a little shaky,
but things get better every day.
“I used this as motivation. I knew we could do something like this. That’s
how I stayed motivated, just to be a part of this senior group and be
standing right here as a part of this team.”
A 6-0 run by Crown Point gave them their first lead of the game 10-9, but
Novak went four-for-four at the foul line to give Chesterton a 13-12 lead
after one period.
Novak scored 11 straight points for the Trojans as the lead grew to 23-19
with 3:06 to play in the second quarter.
“Zack Novak is a special player you only get once in a lifetime,” Peller
said. “He leads by example, by words and the way he plays out on the floor.
He comes up huge in big games and he’s just a winner.
“When he’s on your side you have a chance to win every game.”
Novak finished with a game-high 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field
and grabbed nine rebounds.
“I saw a lot of openings early,” Novak said. “I was pumped for this a little
more than usual. There was a little something extra there today. First
conference championship ever for the school; last game in this gym.
“You had to come out and do something extra.”
The Trojans locked down on defense during the stretch as they held the
Bulldogs 8:11 without a basket and built a 32-23 lead.
“We played great defensively and that’s where we won the game,” Peller said.
“We played great defense tonight and I think the guys understand that to win
a championship that’s where you have to get things done.”
Chesterton held sharp-shooting CP guard Stephen Albrecht to just 13 points on
6-of-19 shooting from the field.
“(Alex) Beierwalter and Tommy (Peller) did a great job on Albrecht,” Peller
said. “That was our main focus. Life is like this. When you have adversity
and you can bounce back from it, our guys showed they are resilient.
“We questioned things for a while, but if you stay with your plan and believe
in yourself things can go your way.”
Back-to-back baskets by Crown Point pulled them within 34-29 after three
quarters, but Peller went four-for-four at the foul line and Novak hit a
basket to make it 40-33 with 6:03 to play.
“I think the intensity was the difference,” Novak said. “That was like a
Sectional game. Low scoring, good defense and just grind it out. We got our
confidence back tonight and it showed.”
Novak hit a triple, Jack Houpt scored inside and Bower hit a layup to push
the lead to 47-35 and CP never got closer than 10 points again.
“Austin stepped up huge tonight,” Novak said. “From what he’s been through to
today, he was back to his old self. You guys don’t see the things that he has
to do every day since it happened. Nobody believed he could get back this
fast. The way he was working at it, he proved everybody wrong.
“Every time the doctor told him he could do something new, he did it.
Sometimes, he probably was already doing it.”
“This group has been together for so long that once I got out there it was
just like old times,” Bower said. “We were able to do the same old things. It
was great. The first doctor I went to told me I’d be out at least six months.
“I knew it was possible, but to get back and contribute is great.”
Chesterton 55, Crown Point 41
Crown Point (12-8-9-12)
Stephen Albrecht 6-19 1-3 13, Kyle Hanaway 3-7 3-3 6, Jacob Burkholder 1-4
0-0 2, Aleks Alavanja 1-3 2-2 4, Zach Cecich 4-8 0-0 8, Ben Derks 1-3 0-0 2,
Michael Lipton 1-4 0-0 2, Derrick Garletts 0-0 1-4 1. Totals 17-48 7-12 41.
Tommy Peller 2-10 7-8 11, Alex Beierwalter 2-5 0-0 4, Austin Bower 4-6 0-0
10, Zack Novak 8-16 5-6 23, Jack Houpt 3-5 0-0 7, Adam White 0-1 0-0 0, John
Thanos 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-44 12-14 55.
3-point field goals: Crown Point 0-7 (Albrecht 0-4, Derks 0-1, Lipton 0-2);
Chesterton 5-13 (Peller 0-1, Bower 2-3, Novak 2-6, Houpt 1-2, White 0-1).
Rebounds: Crown Point 31 (Cecich 9); Chesterton 26 (Novak 9). Assists: Crown
Point 2 (Hanaway 1, Lipton 1); Chesterton 10 (Novak 3). Steals: Crown Point 3
(Albrecht 1, Hanaway 1, Alavanja 1); Chesterton 3 (Bower 2).