By Jeff Jones
BUTLER — Consider last Friday’s Eastside-Churubusco game a dress rehearsal. The two teams met again in the Class 2A South Adams Sectional, after the Eagles won last week’s sectional preview by a 55-45 score.
Churubusco finished the regular-season at 11-11. Eastside heads into the sectional at 10-12.
Churubusco got 17 points from freshman Zane Burke, 15 from freshman Jackson Paul and 12 from junior Brayton Bonar.
Seniors led the way for Eastside. Caleb Ballentine led all scorers with 18 points. Aaron Dean added 12 and Andrew Steffen finished with 10.
“It’s very difficult when you have to play a team a second time within three days,” Churubusco coach Chris Paul said. “Eastside’s very solid. They had a great fourth quarter and they were able to do some really good things.
“We were just able to get them out of rhythm for a while,” he said. “To be honest with you, that’s the sixth time we’ve won on the road this year, and with a young group, I’m very proud of them for that.
“What we can take away from it that is we know how to win on the road,” Paul stated. “That being said, Tuesday, we can throw everything out the window. Coach Abbott is a really good coach, and he’s probably going to have a different game plan, and I’m probably going to change some things.”
“To be honest, it wasn’t that we were really saving anything,” said Eastside coach Ryan Abbott. “It’s just unfortunate that our mentality was too passive early in the first quarter and early in the third quarter. We kind of lost confidence in ourselves and lost confidence in each other.
“Going into the fourth quarter, we had 19 points and we finished the game with 45, and we missed 13 free throws. The points are there when we’re aggressive and confident,” he said.
What was a competitive game — Churubusco led 14-10 after a quarter and 23-17 at halftime — turned into anything but when Eastside scored just two points in the third.
Following Steffen’s rebound score with 5:41 left, the Eagles finished the third on a 9-0 run to lead 37-19 with a quarter to play.
The visitors built the lead to 21 points early in the fourth, but four turnovers and missed free throws later in the period when Eastside tried to make a run means Churubusco can’t be overconfident heading into the rematch.
Ballentine ran off five straight points. After a Riley Thompson three, Ballentine hit one of his own, and then stole the ball on the Eagles’ next two possessions, resulting in a free throw and a rebound score to make it 46-33 with 3:16 to go.
Churubusco then missed the front end of a bonus, but Eastside couldn’t score on an inside look.
Burke showed poise, hitting both ends of a bonus with 2:58 to play and added another free throw 30 seconds later. The Blazers missed four straight free throws. Two Paul freebies made it 51-33 with 2:08 left.
Ballentine hit a pair, Chase Franz had a rebound score, and Ballentine scored inside to make it 52-39 with a minute left. Dean added two threeballs in the closing seconds for the final 10-point margin.
Free throw shooting was a sore spot for both teams. Eastside missed enough — making 11-of-24 for the night — to win the game and Churubusco — making 17-of-31 — missed enough that it wouldn’t have mattered.
The little things will matter when the teams meet again Tuesday.
Eastside JV 40, Churubusco 38
Colton Birch’s layup in the final seconds provided the winning margin for Eastside.
Mason Garland led Churubusco with 18 points.
Visit the Churubusco News Facebook page for updates on this week’s sectional action.