GARRETT — It’s happened only five other times in Churubusco boys’ basketball history with each suffering the same losing effort.
With the help of a 50-32 sectional semifinal win at Garrett over the Railroaders Friday night, the Eagles sixth trip to a sectional championship game has a chance to be a first in the school’s history.
’Busco will go for its first title ever against a familiar North East Corner Conference foe it’s both lost and beaten this season.
Prairie Heights beat Central Noble in the semifinal round’s second game 62-38 and holds a five-point overtime win over the Eagles along with a 25-point loss during the regular season.
Backed by early three-point shooting, ’Busco used stifling defense to turn what was a disappointing 47-40 regular season loss to Garrett into its’ 15th win of the season.
“Our kids are very happy that we won and very excited that we are in the championship game but they are very business-like now,” Churubusco head coach Michael McBride said. “They realize we got another game we have to take care of.”
The view was the same all night for ’Busco. Tying three times throughout the first half, the Eagles never saw a deficit, taking the lead for good on a Dylan Herendeen jump shot with 4:38 left in the second quarter.
Herendeen’s shot was the beginning of a 9-1 run to close out the first half with Churubusco up 22-14.
A team-high 12 points for Herendeen came after a challenge from the Eagles coaching staff just one night prior.
“We actually had a meeting with Dylan last night and kind of challenged him to step up and knock in some shots for us,” McBride stated. “He’s too good of a shooter. He deserves a lot of credit because he locked in mentally and he came out and hit those open threes.”
Herendeen hit all eight of his first half points from the perimeter as Garrett imposed a zone defense on the Eagles early.
Churubusco fought off a poor shooting first quarter where the Eagles shot 2-for-10 (20 percent).
Nine of the Eagles first 11 points came from behind the arc as Hunter Nicodemus joined Herendeen with two three-point baskets.
“We got a big lift from our perimeter guys,” McBride noted after gaining a 8-5 lead at the end of the first quarter. “They were going to give us that perimeter shot and our guys knocked it in.”
Garrett relied on Brandon Porter with its season leading scorer Drake Landes out for the game. Porter scored the Railroaders’ first nine points of the game on way to a game-high 13 points.
The only bright moment of the night for Garrett was an 8-2 run at the start of the second quarter.
A quick rally to tie the game 13-13 with five minutes remaining in the first half faded for Garrett. The Railroaders went on a eight-minute scoring drought at the 2:03 mark of the second.
“They didn’t get a lot of easy baskets on us like they did last time,” McBride said. “We had really good intensity defensively.”
Churubusco turned a 17-14 lead at the start of the drought into a 33-16 lead by the time the scoreless stretch was broken in the third quarter.
A 9-1 run to end the first half had senior Kyle Monk drive the lane with three seconds left to take ’Busco’s lead to 22-14.
With Garrett missing its first eight shots from the field in the second half, Churubusco had six different Eagles help turn out an 11-0 run to start.
Junior Josh LeFever got four of his eight points in the stretch as buckets by Monk, Tyler Arrowsmith and Tavin Herendeen extended the ’Busco lead to as much as 22 points in the second half.
After a shaky start from the field, Churubusco finished 16-of-39 (41 percent) from the field while Garrett was limited to 13-of-43 (30 percent).
The Eagles defense held the Railroaders to single digit scoring in three of four quarters and turns to Prairie Heights in a 7:30 p.m. tip-off tonight for more.
“We were just locked in defensively,” McBride said. “We had good play out of everybody.
“It’s the tournament and you have to bring your “A” game. We’ve told our kids, one game at a time, and they understand we’ve got one more.”