NEW HAVEN — Leading by as much as 16 points in the second half, Columbia City head coach Chris Benedict saw his team grow up in a big way Friday night.
The Eagles had their 10th win of the season all but locked up with a 45-29 lead and 4:35 to go in the fourth quarter.
A little over three minutes later, an 11-0 run by New Haven tested the maturity level of a young Columbia City team, who earlier in the season might have folded.
The Eagles used offense to take the commanding lead but a key defensive stop sealed the 53-47 win on the Northeast Hoosier Conference road.
“We started playing fast offensively which gave them the ball back and they made some shots,” coach Benedict said. “I was really proud of how our guys handled it at the end.
“I thought it got a little rugged. Our guys handled themselves well and knocked down free throws when they needed to.”
The Eagles went 8-for-9 from the free throw in the final 1:24.
Foul trouble against a taller Bulldogs squad looked to stumble Columbia City out of the gates.
Just three minutes into the first quarter, the Eagles had two starters — Brandon Gay and Tyler Mosher — go to the bench with two fouls.
“On the road against big bodies, I thought our guys stuck in there,” coach Benedict said. “Defensively it’s as good as I’ve seen us.”
Despite being out rebounded 25-16, the Eagles looked to its season leading scorer Drew Benedict and a less known scoring threat Matt Rethlake.
Drew Benedict hit eight of his game-high 18 points in the first quarter including back-to-back threes.
Leading 16-11 after one quarter, junior Matt Rethlake kept Columbia City on track scoring all seven of his points.
“With (Tyler) Mosher and (Brandon) Gay out I thought Jared Murphy and Matt Rethlake stepped in a did a great job,” coach Benedict said. “Matt can do a great job getting to the rim. Tonight, he was hesitant. He caught it and attacked the basket.”
Rethlake scored with under three seconds left in each of the first two quarters.
Columbia City’s lead grew to as much as 16 points in the fourth quarter after back-to-back three-pointers by Drew Burnsworth and Brandon Gay.
The Eagles went 8-for-15 from behind the three-point line going 50 percent from the field on the night.
“Come out in the third quarter and I thought we played really well,” coach Benedict noted. “We’re doing it on both ends of the court and it’s a lot of fun. The kids have kind of grown up here in the last couple of weeks.”