CHURUBUSCO — The host Churubusco boys’ basketball team used balanced scoring and a stingy high-pressure defense to run out to a 20-point lead at halftime en route to a 59-39 win over Northeast Corner Conference foe Hamilton Thursday.
The Eagles got 15 points each from senior Hunter Nicodemus and juniors Josh LeFever, and Tyler Arrowsmith. ’Busco forced 22 Hamilton turnovers for the game.
“We were really good defensively at the start of the first quarter, going up 13-0, but were kind of disappointed at the end of the quarter where they went on an 8-0 run,” Eagle head coach Michael McBride said. “They were a team that we thought we could pressure defensively. But I thought our starters came back in the second quarter I thought they did a really nice job of making things difficult for them (Hamilton).”
The win kept Churubusco’s hopes alive for an NECC championship with Westview (17-0, 9-0 NECC) remaining one game ahead with a 65-41 win over Prairie Heights Thursday.
Churubusco picked up its 10th win of the season widening the gap between itself and third-place teams Prairie Heights and Lakeland who both had three losses in the conference.
The Eagles (10-4, 7-1 NECC) forced the Marines into six first quarter turnovers as they built a 13-0 lead over the Marines.
The Eagles were led in the quarter by Josh LeFever, the beneficiary of many of those turnovers, as the junior tallied nine points in the quarter.
Hamilton (0-17, 0-8 NECC) strung together eight straight points to close the quarter down by a 13-8 count.
The Marines’ Austin Boyd hit a basket to open the second quarter to pull the visitors to within three at 13-10.
That was as close as the Marines got as the Eagle defense put the clamps on the visitors, holding them to only six points in the quarter and forcing eight more turnovers.
On the other end of the floor, the Churubusco offense put up 21 second quarter points to build a 20-point, 34-14 lead at halftime.
Eagle senior Hunter Nicodemus put up 10 points in the quarter, including a three-point shot and three free throws from a Hamilton foul behind the arc.
Senior Kyle Monk added six points in the quarter to help stake the Eagles to the halftime margin.
With the lead set at 20, the two teams played even through the second half with both squads putting up 25 points after the halftime break.
The Eagles got a boost from junior center Tyler Arrowsmith. The six-foot-eight-inch junior scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half with LeFever adding six.
“They (Hamilton) wanted to keep the pace slower, so we had to step up the pace with the full court press,” McBride said. “I thought we did a nice job of that to build the 20-point lead at halftime.
“I thought Nicodemus was really active the second quarter. During that second quarter when Monk and Nicodemus got hot, I thought Chris Jones made some really nice passes that set them up.”
Two games remain in the NECC for Churubusco. The Eagles travel to Fairfield Feb. 18 and host Eastside Feb. 25.