By CJ PETERS
MICHIGAN CITY — Everything went right for Crown Point sophomore Dikembe Shaw Friday night.
Well, except for one thing.
“Everything but his dunking,” coach Clint Swan said after Shaw clanged a dunk with the game in hand in the final seconds. “If there was like a minute to go, my head would have exploded, but he knew. He played his game, no question, and hopefully he keeps it up for us.”
A 20-point lead early in the second quarter was reduced to four by halftime and two by the fourth quarter, but Shaw’s second-half efforts – which included 18 of his game-high 22 points and a stretch of seven of the team’s eight in an 8-2 run – helped Crown Point seal a 66-60 win over Michigan City at the Wolves Den to open Duneland Athletic Conference play.
“I think we imposed our will in the first quarter and in those middle two quarters, they imposed it on us,” Swan said. “We kind of got to a tipping point. A month ago, honestly, I think Michigan City probably wins this game by 10. The guys did a great job maintaining their pose and maintaining their composure. We had some bad possessions, no doubt, but they didn’t let it snowball to the point that they got the lead and they got away from us. We gathered ourselves and got the win."
Shaw took off in the third quarter scoring the opening points of the third on his way to 11 in the frame as Crown Point (7-3, 1-0) continued to keep City at bay, leading by three going into the fourth after Keagan Cowgill’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
“Really just staying locked in on defense,” Shaw said. “The offense is gonna come. When it’s 5-on-5, one guy isn’t that hard to beat if you continue to get your teammates involved and just continue to go at it. I saw some of the matchups I had and was able to pick my spots and take advantage of that.
“It wasn’t just about me, it was about all my teammates, too. I feel like the team as a whole feels that we’re underestimated, but we come out every night and push it. We have multiple guys that can go and get their own. We share the ball well. I think we have a great team.”
Listed at 6-foot-6, 205 pounds on the Bulldogs roster, Shaw presented problems throughout for City showcasing an ability to take defenders off the bounce, as well as the ability to step out in knocking down a couple of 3s. Seeing some varsity time and starting some games as a freshman, he has blossomed in his now full-time role.
“Everything with him begins with humility,” Swan said. “He’s an extremely humble kid and understands he still has work to do, but he’s doing a great job. It goes back to what I said earlier, it’s his humility, and just understanding that he had to get better.
“From last year to this year, he’s gotten better. From the start of the season this year to now, he’s gotten so much better, and he knows what I’m about to say – that from now until the end of the season we expect him to continue to get better and I know he will. I know he will because he’s not one of those guys that has to check his ego all the time. It’s always in check.”
Shaw’s older sister, Dash, played hoops for three years for Crown Point and now plays for Purdue Northwest. Humility is something Dikembe says runs in the family as he continues to grow into his game.
“We as a family, we all stay humble,” he said. “We know it’s really not just about us, that it’s about the team. If we have the win, I don’t really care what else happens. I can have zero points, but if we win, I’ll still be the same way.
“I’m more confident this year. With A.J. (Lux) with us last year, he put me under his wing a lot and he just showed me the ropes, and I guess it’s my show now. Earlier in the year, I was extremely inefficient, but as the season has gone on we’re all picking it up and I’m finding my rhythm.”
Senior Jack Svetich knocked down a pair of 3s for two of the team’s first three scores and scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half for the ‘Dogs, who led by as much as 20, had their lead cut to four following a 20-4 City run keyed by 13 from junior Anthony Murphy.
“He hit that first shot and I thought, 'Oh boy, here we go, he’s gonna have another big night’,” Swan said of Svetich. “They did a good job finding him and taking him off his spot a little bit, and to his credit, he didn’t really force anything. He got a couple pull-ups and had a great move, and had just missed the finish. All in all, he played a great game."
Sophomore Mason Darrell added eight points, scoring six straight in the first quarter with a 3-pointer and then three free throws after being fouled on a corner trey. Classmate Kingston Rhodes added seven points and nabbed five steals.
"We’re playing a lot of young guys, and we have young guys with experience, but they’re still young," Swan said. "I think that they’re hitting a maturity level right now that if we hadn’t played them last year, maybe it takes them until next year to win this game. I’m really proud of them and how they did.”
Each player in the Bulldogs’ starting lineup scored at least two with eight players tallying at least a basket.
“That’s kind of been our MO,” Swan said. “I think if you saw our Noblesville game, you’d say Dikembe Shaw was our best player. If you come to our Castle game, you would’ve said Jack Svetich was our best player. Come to our Munster game, you probably would have said Mason Darrell. “It varies from game to game. It’s a luxury to have as a coach.”
Murphy, who also had seven rebounds, scored 15 of his team-high 18 points in the first half for Michigan City (6-5, 0-1), knocking down a trio of 3s in his second-quarter barrage, including a buzzer-beater. Allen Briggs scored 12 of his 13 in the second half and Andrew Vicari was also in double figures with 10, including a pair of 3s. Adrian Holley snagged eight boards and had three blocks.
“Transition defense and 15 turnovers cost us,” City coach Tom Wells said. “I’m proud of the fight and resilience, but you can’t win close games giving up transition freebies and 15 turnovers.”
Although theirs was in a winning effort, Shaw was also impressed with his team’s resilience, referring to one of coach Swan’s sayings in the process.
“They hit us with a right hook, so to say, and we came back, we retaliated, and we didn’t give up the lead, regardless of what happened,” Shaw said. “Like coach always says, ‘Keep poker faces’. He preaches it every day.”