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By TIM EVANS
Press general manager
BROADLANDS — A slow start cost Fisher’s boys basketball team its first IHSA regional title loss in three years Monday night at the Heritage Regional in Broadlands against fourth-seeded Villa Grove, 64-53.
It was 9-0 before 6-2 senior forward Hans Carmien put fifth-seeded Fisher on the board with an inside bucket at 5:22.
Villa Grove junior sharpshooter Lucas Vandeventer hit four of five three-pointers and scored 20 of his game-high 25 points in the first half to lead a Blue Devil attack that built a 35-24 halftime advantage.
That was the story of the game, according to Fisher coach Ron Ragle, who had guided his Bunnies to two previous regional titles.
“We came out flat, and we just don’t have the ingredients to come back on teams,” Ragle said. “Our goal this year was to win a third straight regional title. Now we have to go back to work, and maybe we can get three of four.”
The Bunnies sure didn’t go down easy. After the slow start and even falling behind further, 14-3, they came back defensively and started hitting shots, the first a three-pointer by junior guard Kyle Williams, who added another late in the quarter to cut the margin to one, 18-17 by the end of the quarter. Williams had eight of his 10 points in the rally.
But Villa Grove changed things up in the second period as Vandeventer hits eight more points to lead the Blue Devils to eventually a 13-point lead at 35-22 before finishing up by 11.
Again Fisher got off to a slow start in the third quarter, getting behind by as much as 45-29 before the Bunnies’ fullcourt pressure brought them back to within eight by the end of the quarter, 45-37, on a bucket by sophomore Grant Pointer that was followed by an offensive rebound and score by senior Nick Thomas.
Fisher eventually got the lead to five at 45-40 on a three-point play by junior Brody Farrar, and even stole the ball and had a chance to cut into the lead further before Vandeventer hit a driving jumper in the lane to extend the lead to 47-40.
It was 49-42 when the Bunnies stole the ball but created a turnover midway through the period before a three-pointer from Blue Devils freshman Brandon Koeberlein, who hit seven of his 11 points in the final stanza, extending the lead to 52-42..
Fisher was then forced to foul down the stretch, and Villa Grove, which moved to 5-22 for the season, continued to hit free throws, canning eight of 13 down the stretch.
Villa Grove coach Brian Russell was proud of his team’s finish.
“If we don’t make those free throws, it’s a different ball game,” Russell said.
Ragle said his Bunnies “forgot what we worked on — not to let people shoot” and said his team “just had way too many turnovers.”
He said the unit will need to “learn from it,” and with the core of the team back next year, “we’ll light a fire under them.”
He said it was a bad way to end the season.
“Nobody wants to go out this way,” he said, although pointing out he was proud of his team for coming back.
“We had a chance there to get it (the lead) below five. Sometimes you get those bounces, sometimes you don’t.”
He complimented the play of Pointer (who finished with 13 points) and Thomas (eight), noting Thomas played hard and took the ball to the basket — something he hasn’t done enough of this year.
The Bunnies were led by Carmien, who had 17 points on seven field goals while he struggled from the line in hitting just three of eight. Williams had 10 while Farrar hit three, and Luke Harvey added two for Fisher.