By Nicole Minier
CHURUBUSCO — A first quarter dominated by Central Noble’s Ridley Zolman led the Cougars to victory in front of a packed gym Friday night in Churubusco, 56-49.
Zolman scored 13 points in the first five minutes of the game, leading Central Noble to a 17-9 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
The Eagles started three freshmen and a sophomore and they were shaken by the packed stands.
“They were a little rattled,” Churubusco head coach Chris Paul said. “We were so excited, it paralyzed us a little in the beginning. It was the first time these young kids have ever played in that size of crowd.”
Both teams have a large following — the student sections were packed, as were the stands.
“That is what basketball is supposed to be like in Indiana,” said Central Noble head coach John Bodey. “It’s what Indiana high school basketball was like in the ’80s when I played.”
Churubusco’s defense put a tracker on Zolman in the second quarter, holding him to just one 3-pointer, while the Eagles began to close in on Central Noble, trailing by six at halftime.
A Churubusco offensive surge led by Zane Burke quickly changed the momentum of the game in the third quarter.
The Eagles trailed 26-21 when Burke scored eight unanswered points to give the Eagles their first lead of the game. By the end of the third quarter, the game was tied at 37.
The score went back-and-forth for the rest of the second half, but the game was ultimately won at the free-throw line, as the Cougars scored 10 free throws to Churubusco’s six. Lucas Deck shot 5 for 7 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with nine points.
Churubusco’s Burke led the game in scoring with 23 points, followed by Central Noble’s Zolman with 22.
Emotions ran high as the Central Noble/Churubusco rivalry continues to churn.
After the game, two players exchanged words, which quickly snowballed into several players and coaches getting into a scuffle after the game, which involved verbal arguments and mild shoving.
“I don’t like what happened at the end, but it does happen in sports sometimes,” Paul said. “Nobody really did anything, it was just some words exchanged and everyone moved off the court.”
Two Churubusco police officers funneled players to their locker rooms and brought order back to the gymnasium. After the game, fans mingled on the court without incident.
“Sometimes in competitive sports when you have these types of rivalries, this will happen,” Paul said. “We don’t condone it, but we have to move on.”
“I think it was two teams that are both getting better and they just wanted to keep fighting,” said Bodey. “Neither team wanted to lose. I love the intensity by both teams, but sometimes you just have to walk away.”
Central Noble 65, Churubusco 20
Central Noble’s girls basketball team also got off to a strong start Friday night, leading 23-2 at the end of the first quarter, en route to a 65-20 win over Churubusco in the early game.
Meleah Leatherman scored 11 of her 25 points in the first quarter, and Sydney Freeman knocked down three 3-pointers in the quarter.
Freeman finished the game with 15 points.
Central Noble took a staggering 41-10 lead at halftime that Churubusco could not recover from.
The Lady Cougars shut out ’Busco in the third quarter leading 56-10 heading into the fourth.
Churubusco was led in scoring by Isabelle Hille and Mariah Hosted with five points apiece.