Published in the Evansville Courier Press March 12, 2017 by Chad Lindskog , Chad.Lindskog@courierpress.com
WASHINGTON — Fans clamored throughout the Hatchet House before the start of Saturday’s regional final.
Did you see what Mekhi Lairy did earlier? … Wait, he scored how many? … What’s he going to do this game?
Lairy scored 40 points to clinch No. 5 Bosse’s semifinal win in overtime earlier in the afternoon. He practically set a benchmark for himself that people wanted to see if he could reach again in the nightcap.
He followed with 35 points in the Bulldogs’ 94-66 win against Pike Central in the Class 3A Washington Regional final — and he didn’t play the last four minutes of the fourth quarter.
“I’ve said all year long he’s the best player in the SIAC. A lot of people want to argue, but there isn’t anybody doing that in the SIAC,” Bosse coach Shane Burkhart said after the Bulldogs’ 81-71 overtime win against No. 3 Brownstown Central in the semifinal.
Although Lairy is generously listed as 5-foot-10 in the official program, there’s no doubting his competitiveness or any of his abilities on the basketball court that have led to back-to-back regional titles, which Bosse last accomplished from 1944-45.
Bosse (20-7) needed a change after suffering its third straight loss one month ago. Lairy, nicknamed “Deuce” for wearing No. 2, has been the change. He’s averaging 30.2 points per game in the postseason and has led them to a nine-game winning streak.
“When Deuce is hot, Duece has to go,” senior Javi Langley said. “He has to get them up … when he’s hitting he has the green light.”
Langley had games of 11 and 14, respectively, while Jaylin Chinn also scored 14 in the final. Although Lairy had 35, five Bulldogs were in double figures.
“I just prepared the same way,” Lairy said. “I had to ice my leg because I got hurt in the first game but I just kept attacking and play my game.”
Bosse almost didn’t get to play again Saturday night.
It trailed 32-24 at the half of the first game because Brownstown ended the second quarter on a 13-0 run. The Bulldogs didn’t take the lead again until late in the fourth when they stormed back.
They forced overtime with Langley’s putback seconds before the final buzzer.
“I was going to get the rebound no matter what,” Langley said. “I tipped it back in — the season could’ve been over — but tonight we were stronger than ever and we got the job done.”
The Bulldogs then started overtime on a 7-0 run with a layup from Jaylin Chinn, a 3-pointer from Jaidon Hunter and dunk by Langley before Lairy iced the victory with four free throws.
“I just kept going,” Lairy said after the first game. “Coach wanted me to attack so that’s what I kept doing. I didn’t know I had 40 until just now.”
Bosse will play Indianapolis Attucks (23-5) next Saturday in the 3A South semistate at a location yet to be determined. Perhaps the Bulldogs will go back-to-back one more weekend.
“Last year we were just on cloud nine and we were rolling through — no one really knew what the next thing was,” Burkhart said. “Now all of a sudden you have all this expectation and fanfare. It’s difficult for kids.
“If you lose, why did you lose? We played a hell of a schedule and really prepared ourselves for the situation we’re in right now.”