WHITLEY COUNTY BASKETBALL: Columbia City opens season with 69-51 win over county rival Whitko

Mark Parker

SOUTH WHITLEY — The boys basketball season opened Wednesday evening for Whitley County foes Whitko and Columbia City, as a tall experienced Columbia City team traveled to the Wildcats’ den and came away with a 69-51 win.

The Eagle big men, brothers Parker and Brachen Hazen made their presence known from the start against a scrappy Whitko team.
Brachen recorded two first half dunks and Parker got one of his own against the smaller Wildcats. Parker was especially efficient around the basket. In the first quarter, the 6-foot 7-inch junior converted two three-point plays to lead the Eagles with six first-quarter points. Brachen Hazen scored five and Cooper Parish hit the first of his four shots from behind the three-point line in the first quarter.

The Wildcats hung tough with the Eagles in the early going, with a three-pointer from Nate Walpole giving the hosts a 10-9 lead three-quarters of the way through the first quarter. Walpole tallied five first-quarter points to pace the Wildcats, with Roger Helblig adding two and Devon Adkins a three as the Wildcats trailed 14-10 at the end of the first quarter.

The Eagles stretched their lead in the second quarter, with Brachen Hazen scoring eight points, including two free throws that pushed the Columbia City lead to 29-17.

Parker Hazen converted two more three-point plays, the last of which gave him 10 points for the quarter and the Eagles a 35-17 lead. Parish tossed in two more three-pointers to aid the Eagles in the second.

The Wildcats got seven more points from Walpole in the second quarter, a three from freshman Spencer Sroufe, and a single free throw from Colin Craig.

The Eagles outscored the Wildcats 26-11 in the second quarter to take a 40-21 lead at halftime.

Brachen Hazen started the third quarter with a three-pointer, and brother Parker continued to get position down low, converting his fifth three-point play of the game and adding nine third-quarter points for the Eagles. Parish recorded his fourth three for the Eagles in the third quarter and Robert Warrick had an inside basket as Columbia City put up 18 points in the third quarter.

Walpole continued to shoulder a majority of the scoring burden for the Wildcats, putting up eight points in the quarter, including two more threes. Adkins hit his second three of the contest and Tanner Gaff added three points for the Wildcats, who trailed 58-35 at the start of the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats closed the gap a bit in the fourth quarter as they continued to play hard. The game became a contest of the Columbia City free throw shooters versus the Wildcats’ Walpole, who continued to hit shots from everywhere on the court. The Whitko junior pumped in another 11 points in the fourth quarter, going 4-for-4 from the free-throw line, hitting a three and two driving baskets. Walpole led all scorers with 31 points for the game.
Brachen Hazen went 3-for-5 from the line and added a basket for five points in the fourth. Mosher went 3-for-4 from the stripe and Warrick tossed in a basket.

Despite Walpole’s efforts and a 16-11 Whitko advantage in the fourth quarter, Columbia City took a 69-51 win to open the season 1-0.
“Obviously height inside will be our strength as we go,” said Eagle Head Coach Chris Benedict. “We just have to get the ball reversed and play in rhythm, and find those guys when it’s the right time. They just have to not complicate what should be easy baskets.”

Wildcat Head Coach Roger Fleetwood was pleased with the way his team played hard and didn’t give up against the taller and more experienced Eagles.
“I was pretty pleased with our effort,” said Fleetwood. “You don’t like to lose, but Columbia City is a really good basketball team, and a really experienced one. I was very proud of how hard the kids played.”

Columbia City returns to action on Saturday when they host Warsaw at 6:15. Whitko hosts Wabash next Friday at 6:15 p.m.