Motivated Lions roar back to regionals

March 11, 2021

For the Leo High School boys basketball team, this year's sectional championship will definitely feel different than last season. If for no other reason than this season, the Lions will get to keep playing.

“Everyone is pretty excited,” head coach Cary Cogdell tells "Having the opportunity to win a very difficult sectional two years in a row, and not getting the opportunity to play [at regionals] last year, I’d say they’re motivated.”

The Lions were just 30 minutes from leaving for one final pre-regional practice at New Castle High School on March 13, 2020, when word came down that the remainder of the IHSAA Boys Basketball State Tournament was canceled.

No. 9 Leo (21-4) channeled the disappointment of the abrupt end to their season into an offseason goal of getting back.

The Lions won their first 11 games, climbed as high as 4th in the Class 3A poll and clinched their first ever outright Northeast 8 Conference championship with a perfect 7-0 league record.

Leo survived a tough 3A Woodlan Sectional 22: cruising past Angola (64-38) in the first round, needing overtime to beat Bishop Luers (76-70) and avenging a February 17 loss to Bishop Dwenger (55-45).

“The big focus this year has been defense,” senior guard Blake Davison says. “Knowing that people are going to be excited to play us, they’re going to bring their A-game, and having to respond to that has been really great for us down the stretch.” Davison averages 17 points per game, and sits at 1,429 career points heading into regional weekend.

Leo’s defensive tenacity has held opponents’ scoring average to just under 50 points per game. The Lions value defensive stops and forced turnovers as a jumpstart for their offense.

“We have a lot of trust in each other,” junior forward Demetrious Allen says. "Knowing what we were capable of doing last year, coming back with that same mentality and same energy has been a major focal point for us." Allen averages 13.1 points per game.

Davison, Allen and senior Zach Troyer were named to the All-NE8 1st Team. Junior Xavier Middleton made the 2nd Team, and junior Ayden Ruble earned Honorable Mention.

“We knew that we had a lot of guys returning and we had a good chance again this year,” Cogdell adds. “It really is a good group of kids. Their team chemistry is second to none. They get along well. If you watch them play, they’re an unselfish group.”

Leo looks to keep their postseason run going at the 3A New Castle Regional on Saturday, March 13, 2021. The Lions will face Mississinewa (17-8) in the second semi-final at noon. The winner of that game faces the winner of the first semi-final between NorthWood (15-8) and New Castle (9-15) in the regional championship, which tips at 7:30 p.m.

Leo has never won a regional title, last played an actual regional game in 2002, and has one regional semi-final win in 1993.

“We know what we have to do to win, and we’re on a good path to do it.”

Leo is one of 26 high schools that partner with ParkviewSportsMedicine for athletic training, nutrition, sports performance, athletic rehab and other sports medicine services for Lion student-athletes. Learn more at

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