By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Sidelined most of his sophomore season with a back injury, 6’9” junior Isaiah Stewart approached rehab aggressively.
“I attacked rehab like my life depended on it,” Stewart said.
He has the same attitude about rebounding.
The La Lumiere (Ind.) power forward posted 35 points and a game-high 13 rebounds in Friday night’s Tournament of Champions semifinal against Brentwood Academy (Tenn.).
The Lakers overcame a late Brentwood rally to win 63-51 and secure a spot in Saturday night’s title game at JQH Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m.
“It’s been great,” Stewart said of La Lumiere’s tournament performance thus far. “The energy in the locker room has been great. It’s about bringing that energy to the table every time.”
Brentwood senior Darius Garland had a game-high 37 points on 13-for-24 shooting. He’s a Vanderbilt signee and then son of former Missouri State (then Southwest Missouri State) great Winston Garland.
“We’ve played two different teams so far,” said Lakers coach Patrick Holmes. “(Thursday) night, getting up and down with Glendale and trying to guard Monty Johal, the (Springfield Public Schools) all-time scoring leader. Next day, come back and have to guard Darius Garland, who’s fantastic with the ball and can hit tough shots.”
La Lumiere led by 12 entering the fourth quarter, but Brentwood got within four points twice in the final four minutes – both times on Garland baskets.
The Lakers closed the game on a 10-2 run.
“I thought we had great composure and poise,” Holmes said.
Holmes credited the play of his senior point guard, Tyger Campbell. He finished with eight points, nine assists and only one turnover.
“He’s as steady as they come,” Holmes said. “He could go to any other high school and score 35 and do his thing. The kid is a winner. That’s what’s going to make him successful in college, beyond (college) and in life.”
With 16 rebounds Thursday night against Glendale, Stewart now has 29 for the tournament. Current Milwaukee Buck Malcom Brogdon holds both the tournament (48) and single-game (21) rebounding records.
“Rebounding’s all about heart, pursuing the basketball and going after it,” Holmes said. “Some guys just don’t want to play hard. Isaiah sees the ball and wants to go get it. He’s a ferocious rebounder.”
During rehab, Stewart made drastic improves to his upper-body strength. He carries that work ethic over to the basketball court.
“A lot of the stuff I did in the weight room translates onto the court,” he said. “I try to attack and go after every rebound. I take rebounding very seriously.”
La Lumiere (Ind.) 63, Brentwood Academy (Tenn.) 51
La Lumiere 15 13 16 19 — 63
Brentwood 13 8 12 18 — 51
La Lumiere – Isaiah Stewart 35, Charles Smith IV 13, Tyger Campbell 8, Paxon Wojcik 6, Emanuel Miller 1
Brentwood Academy – Darius Garland 37, Kam Lyons 6, Cam Johnson 6, Nathan Clifton 2