CHURUBUSCO — There is just something about senior night.
Churubusco’s boys and girls basketball teams celebrated their seniors and sent them off with a sweep over Northeast Corner Conference rival Central Noble Friday night in doubleheader action.
Churubusco girls 66, Central Noble 54
The Lady Eagles (8-14, 5-6 NECC) capped off their regular season with a dominant performance against Central Noble (18-6, 8-3 NECC), one of the NECC’s best teams.
Churubusco put forth an incredible offensive and defensive effort, giving the Cougars fits on both sides of the ball all night after a slow start.
“We came out emotional,” coach Dustin Beucler said. “Four turnovers early and we called a timeout just to calm them down. Even if it wasn’t senior night, just playing Central Noble is emotional.
“They played great. I told the girls that that is what we’ve had all season that we’ve been trying to pull out of them. We really played together.”
In its final home game, Churubusco bid farewell to the senior class of Jazlyn Needler (22 points), Alyssa Anderson (7), Mariah Nondorf (2) and Shelby Brockman (4).
“It’s been awesome,” said Beucler of his seniors. “They are a hard working bunch. They definitely put in the time.”
Churubusco used two big first-half runs to establish an advantage in the opening half.
Deadlocked at 4 apiece midway through the opening quarter, Churubusco embarked on an 8-0 run with scores by Needler, Stacia Fester (12) and Cassidy Yant (14).
At the 3:10-mark, Needler stole a pass at midcourt and took it back for a 3-point play. The steal was number 189 in her career, setting a new school record. The old record of 188 was set by Crystal Mort during the 1984-85 season.
The Eagles established their offense at the free throw line, attempting 11 in the first quarter alone. Churubusco’s offense forced Central Noble into nine team fouls in the first quarter. The team finished 29-of-34 from the line.
Mikayla Stringfellow (15) got Central Noble back on track with five-straight points to start the second as the Cougars pulled within one point at 17-16.
The Eagles responded with another run, this one 9-0 to go back up by 10 with threes coming from Mallory Pearson (3) and Needler. Brockman added a layup on the run.
A big third period by Meleah Leatherman (15) again got the Cougars within a point and a 3-pointer by Sydney Freeman (11) got the visitors within 42-40 heading into the fourth.
With the game tied at 42, The Eagles put together one last push to put the game out of hand. Churubusco began getting aggressive once more and started getting back to the line, shooting 17-of-18 in the quarter, to get ahead and stay ahead.
Paige Stauffer added a pair of points to the winning effort.
With sectional play up next, the Eagles’ coach thinks a big emotional win to end the season can mean a lot going forward.
“I think we underachieved a bit this year,” Beucler said. “But our end goal is still there, to win a sectional. It’s not going to be easy but effort like this will get us close. (This win) is huge. Hopefully a big time momentum-builder.”
Churubusco boys 51, Central Noble 41
Churubusco (5-11, 1-5 NECC) overcame a strong start and a late surge by the Cougars (8-9, 4-3 NECC) to score the team’s first conference victory of the season.
Although not the final game of the season, the Eagles took the time to honor their seniors: Garett Simmons (13 points), Drew Buffenbarger (11), Derek Bowyer (1), Landon Pence and Josh Howk.
“I thought our kids did a really good job on things we’ve been working on with our man-to-man defense,” coach Michael McBride said. “Our zone was good and kept their penetration in check. (Central Noble) drives the ball really well.”
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Kaleb Smith (12) and Reeve Zolman (17) helped put the visitors up 8-1 midway through the opening period before Churubusco closed the quarter out on an 8-2 run with baskets by Dakota Barkley (23), Buffenbarger and free throws by Simmons.
Barkley added six straight out of the break to increase the team’s advantage. After an EJ Andrews (3) three out of the gate, the Eagles held Central Noble to just two more second-quarter points, outscoring the visitors 13-2.
Buffenbarger opened the second half with a 3-point play to extend the lead to double digits (27-17) and hold the advantage throughout the quarter.
Central Noble would battle back, pulling within a bucket at 39-37 with 5:30 left in the final stanza off an 8-2 run build off Mason Smith (4), Zolman and Kaleb Smith.
The Eagles denied the comeback bid, however, scoring eight unanswered over the final four and a half minutes to go back up by 10.
“Our kids were solid all throughout the night, even when (Central Noble) made a little run,” McBride explained. “We’ve had some difficulties in the fourth quarter with losing the lead. We never lost the lead tonight. We did a nice job finishing out the game. It was probably the best we’ve been closing out a game this year.”
The Eagles took advantage of a vast discrepancy in fouls called. Churubusco went to the line 22 times, converting 15 into points, while Central Noble only attempted six free throws, hitting three.
Dalston Duff added three points for the home team.
Since the NECC Tournament, the Eagles are 3-3 following a 2-8 start.
“We’ve started to gain a good understanding of good shot selection for our team and the importance of that,” McBride said. “We’ve also found some good combinations that have performed well for us. Our defense continues to improve as well.”
Churubusco will return to action Thursday, hosting Lakeland.