By Justin Hunter
WOODBURN — Churubusco’s boys basketball team made history Saturday night, defeating Eastside 65-56 in the sectional championship. The victory marks the Eagle’s first title in school history.
Churubusco (17-8) started the game hot with an 8-2 lead. That was short lived as Eastside (19-5) led 20-15 at the end of the first quarter. Senior Jalen Paul’s bucket with 1:36 left in the first half gave the Eagles lead again at 27-26 at half.
“We never won a sectional before,” said head coach Chris Paul. “That put a lot of pressure on them. Eastside came out ready to play. Our guys really bought in and never doubted.”
It would have been easy to get discouraged when the team’s leading scorers were held to just three points in the first half.
The Eagles have been carried offensively by Paul and Dakota Barkley with both boys averaging more than 20 points per game. At halftime Saturday, Paul only had three points and Barkley had none.
Luke Foote never doubted his shooting ability, knocking down five 3-pointers, including three in the first quarter, to tally 26 points in the game.
“Eastside put so much attention on guarding our other guys,” said Foote. “So I was left open a lot and I personally felt disrespected. I took it personally, and it was my time to step it up.”
It was Collin Mullins whose can-do attidude saved the game. Eastside started the second quarter with a 20-15 lead which was extended to eight points, but then coach Paul put in the senior, Mullins, who only averaged about 1.5 points and four minutes per game.
“I can’t give him enough credit,” Paul said. “If he didn’t do that, we didn’t win.”
While Eastside had all of its defensive pressure stressed on Paul, Barkley and Foote, Mullins ripped off nine consecutive points to take back the ’Busco lead before halftime.
Paul said he put Mullins in the game for two reasons — he’s excellent at trapping on defense, and he can shoot the ball.
“We told him when he was open on the wing to shoot it,” Paul said. “It’s one thing to be told. It’s another thing when it’s a sectional championship and you haven’t played a lot of minutes. When he caught that first pass and made that three, he wasn’t nervous.”
“I’ve got to give the credit to my teammates. They were often trapped and found a way to give me the ball,” said Mullins.
With Mullins’ help, Churubusco had a one-point lead at halftime, 27-26.
Some of the Eagles’ most productive moments in the game fell in the third quarter. The Eagles went on an 11-point run, which included three from beyond the arch.
At the end of the third, Churubusco led the Blazers 45-35. It was then when the Churubusco’s fans believed they would witness Churubusco’s first sectional championship victory.
The Eagles led by as much as 14 points in the fourth quarter, and the Blazers could not come back from the deficit. Churubusco’s players jumped and embraced each other as the final buzzer sounded.
“A lot of people in this gym will remember this for a long time,” coach Paul said. “I’m just proud to be part of it.”
Eastside was led by Senior Jacob Thompson who scored 28 points.
Churubusco will play in its first regional in school history next Saturday at 11 a.m. (10 a.m. central time) against Marquette Catholic (16-9) in North Judson.