By Nicole Minier
SOUTH WHITLEY — Churubusco’s boys basketball team held onto its lead to beat Whitley County rival Whitko Saturday night, 66-60.
The visiting Eagles never gave up their lead, but they did see a 14-point advantage dwindle as the Wildcats caught fire in the second quarter of their Senior Night game.
Churubusco started the game on a 7-2 run, which was extended to 21-12 by the end of the first quarter after Eagle freshman Zane Burke scored at the buzzer.
Burke had 10 points in the first quarter and led the team with 19 points overall.
Burke opened the second quarter with his third 3-pointer, but the Wildcats crept back into the game, eventually cutting Churubusco’s lead to five after a pair of free throws by Brett Sickafoose with 30 seconds left. Sickafoose was the game’s high scorer with a stellar 24 points.
“We had a couple empty possessions and they got really hot,” said Churubusco head coach Chris Paul. “They shot the ball really well. That big lead disappeared and we were in a dogfight from that point on.”
Churubusco’s Brayton Bonar finished the half with a basket to make the halftime score 35-28. Bonar scored at least four points per quarter to pace himself to an 18-point game for the Eagles.
“When Bonar plays with that energy, it makes us different,” Paul said. “They had to pay attention to him and it freed our other shooters up.”
The Eagles pulled ahead but as many as nine points in the third quarter, but by the end of the third, Whitko cut the Eagles’ lead to one before a pair of free throws by Tom Richards made the score 49-47 going into the fourth quarter.
Churubusco’s Gage Kelly scored eight points in the fourth quarter and Burke shot 4 for 4 from the free-throw line to help the Eagles to their six-point win.
Kelly ended the game with 15 points, and Jackson Paul scored six.
Along with Sickafoose’s 24 points, senior River West tallied 15 points and Brian Collins had eight points. West averages 21 points per game, and Coach Paul said he was pleased with the Eagles’ defensive focus on West, which unfortunately for the Eagles, opened up opportunities for Sicakfoose.
“I’m pleased that we held him (West) under his average,” Paul said. “Sickafoose really impressed me. It seemed like every time he shot the ball, it went in.”