by Bill Figel

Leo’s young varsity players cleared their first hurdle in IHSA 2-A division competition Wednesday night at Julian High School beating Longwood 35-34 in a tense game decided as the final shot clanged off the backboard and rim. 

Leo never trailed in its first regional game and ran its record to 12-19 on the season. 

In a game of spurts and breakdowns, the Lions coughed up the ball and leads of 14-2 at the end of the first quarter and 17-10 at half.

Led by Kalvin Leonard’s 23 points, Longwood got within one – and the final scoring – with 20 seconds left on Leonard’s 35-foot wide-open wing jumper. After Longwood got the ball back with 11 seconds left, Leo doubled up on Leonard who was looking for the same magic as time expired but his shot hit hard off glass and rim in that order.

Junior forward Neil Anderson led the Lions with 11 points while working the post and the offensive glass. Ramone Little chipped in eight points.

Freshman point guard Brandon Gandy may have saved the day and helped the Lions advance in a game in which they were not at their best.

With the score 29-24 and Longwood beginning to believe, Gandy entered the game to start the fourth quarter. The slender 6-1 shooter nailed a three to break a tie at 24, forced two turnovers, fed Anderson on two open-floor breakaways and pump faked a jumper leading to his own baseline layup to give Leo a 35-29 lead and finish Leo’s scoring for the night with 4:35 to play. 

Grandy finished with five points, two steals and three assists in half a frame of action.

Leo’s defensive schemes worked early and late, both its man-to-man coverage and an impressive half-court trap with its “bigs up front” to cause havoc. In all Leo forced six Longwood turnovers in the first half and 10 in the second half.

Leo entered the IHSA 2-A division as a No. 2 seed at the Julian Regional Wednesday and will face host Julian (23-5, the No. 3 seed) that beat No. 5 seed Butler College Prep (13-16).

Leo and Julian tip off at 7:00 Friday, with the victor taking the regional title and earning a berth in the Corliss Sectional.

Hansberry (16-10), competing in the South Shore Regional, is the No. 1 seed in the Corliss Sectional that begins next week.

Julian is located at 10330 South Elizabeth Street, just east of Vincennes Avenue. There is plenty of parking in front of the building and west of the building.