MICHIGAN CITY — Evan Bush was mad.
Nearing the end of the third quarter of the Wolves’ 73-68 victory over Class 4A No. 8 South Bend Adams Saturday afternoon, the Michigan City forward saw his team’s lead dissipate into a 10-point deficit. Sloppy play resulting in turnovers and easy Eagles points in transition overwhelmed City, shifting all the momentum in Adams’ direction.
That is, until Bush took over in the fourth quarter.
The strong 6-foot-5 junior took it upon himself to help the Wolves go on a game-closing 30-15 run to effectively come back from down 53-43 toward the conclusion of the third quarter. On Michigan City’s opening possession of the fourth, Bush drove into the lane and finished strong with some contact to make it a five-point game.
One possession later, Dez’Mand Hawkins – who had 25 points on the day – found Bush wide open on the left wing. The Eagles defenders were daring him to shoot the 3-pointer and he did just that. Splash. All of a sudden within less than a minute, the Wolves trailed by just two points.
With City trailing 60-59 with 4:30 left, Bush found himself with another opportunity from long-range, this time to give the Wolves their first lead since early in the third quarter. He drilled it from the right corner, dropping back on defense while intensely screaming in celebration.
Bush was needed once again to help his team regain the lead, down 68-66 with a minute-and-a-half left. Tahari Watson swung the ball over to Bush at the right corner once again. In a heat-check moment, he hucked up another try from beyond the arc. His shot was money, again, and City (12-5) led, 69-68.
His third triple of the fourth quarter was good for his 15th and final point of the quarter, and it turned out to be enough for the Wolves to hang on to win, following four clutch free throws by Hawkins and Omarion Hatch in the game’s waning seconds. Their shots from the charity stripe capped off yet another double-digit comeback for MC, something that’s become almost commonplace for coach Tom Wells’ squad as of late.
“Resiliency is a great word for it,” Wells said. “Just the nature of the way we play, we’re going to play in spurts a little bit. But coming off Thursday (an overtime loss to Chesterton), I expected us to be a little emotionally drained. Today could’ve been a really long day for us, and I was a little worried about it. But I’m very happy about their response. We talk a lot about our response to adversity and we’re really learning how to do that well.”
The key to that resiliency, according to Bush, is playing mad. He and Wells would rather them not have to get mad to light a spark underneath them, but it’s a rare trait they possess that keeps them within striking distance no matter the score.
“I was real mad,” Bush said. “I didn’t wanna lose that game. I wanted to come through for my team. Last game, I fouled out and I couldn’t help out down the stretch. I didn’t want that to happen today, and I wanted to make up for that... We need to come out harder in the first half instead of waiting for the second half to get there. We need to play mad from the start. That’s when we’re at our best.”
While Bush’s play was crucial to the Wolves’ second-half comeback, they don’t get there without Hawkins’ first-half scoring when some of his teammates were far colder from the field.
Seventeen of his 25 points came in the first half, doing so in all offensive facets. Whether it was the 3-ball, driving in the lane or nailing free throws, Hawkins could do no wrong. His 17 points came about as efficiently as possible, doing so on five-of-six shots from the field and nailing all five of his opportunities from the charity-stripe.
“Evan and Dez’ stepped up and made some great plays today,” Wells said. “We’re not able to make the comeback without Evan, and we don’t even have that opportunity without Dez’s play in the first half. I’m just really proud of them and their resilience. They’re both a couple of really experienced kids that help us win the majority of the plays on any given night.”
Saturday’s win proved the Wolves can take down a team with similar athleticism and game as themselves. The Eagles were able to match the Wolves’ speed, posing a different challenge.
“In some regards, you’re looking at yourself,” Wells said. “It’s like playing yourself. They’re very good at what we do. They’re 15-3 and their record speaks for itself. They’re a sectional opponent, so today was just a little confidence boost to know if we get them on a Saturday night for the title, then we can feel pretty good about it. It’s all about confidence. We needed that win, emotionally, in the worst way.”