GARRETT — With 3:49 left and a 32-31 lead in Saturday night’s class 2A sectional championship at Garrett, Churubusco boys’ basketball was on the verge of doing something no other team in school history had done.
However, offensive woes in the second half, where the Eagles shot 3-for-15 and scored just 11 points, helped Prairie Heights rally to deny ’Busco its first title 38-36.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” Churubusco head coach Michael McBride said. “We missed a lot of lay-ups tonight when you look back on it.
“We can’t fault our kids’ effort though. They played all the way to the final horn.”
’Busco shot 1-for-8 in the fourth quarter in a tiebreaking game in the season series with the Panthers.
Meeting twice in the regular season, Churubusco and Prairie Heights both experienced a win on their home court.
Neutral ground had the Eagles with an apparent edge in the first half with senior Kyle Monk putting his team in the lead.
Monk scored 13 of his game-high 15 points in the first half as Churubusco pounded the glass.
An offensive put back by senior Jordan Turner gave the Eagles their biggest lead of the game 25-19 with 1:05 to go in the first half.
Turner’s bucket was the end of a 14-3 run by Churubusco to regain the lead in the second quarter.
The first quarter opened with a deadlocked 9-9 game where physical play cost two Eagles foul trouble early.
Prairie Heights grabbed a 16-11 early in the second quarter behind it’s leading scorer Mike Reynolds, who had 15 points.
The Eagles reeled off the next 10 points including six points from Monk.
Holding a 25-21 halftime lead, Churubusco went into the break shooting 10-of-21 (48 percent) and came out finishing with three field goals in the second half.
Three consecutive turnovers to start the third quarter put the Eagles in a quick hole as Prairie Heights used five points from Brennen North to retake the lead 26-25.
“That’s stuff that has just kind of plagued us off and on throughout the year,” McBride said of the early second half turnovers. “If we could have converted a few more times it might have changed things but there isn’t a lot you can say.”
During a five-point quarter for Churubusco, Dylan Herendeen hit the only three-pointer for the Eagles helping knot the game up 30-30 heading into the final quarter.
Perimeter shooting troubled Churubusco (15-7) all night and that didn’t help according to McBride.
“We didn’t make any outside shots and we had been shooting well,” McBride noted. “They didn’t score that much but we didn’t either. We had patience and got good shots but we just didn’t make them and sometimes that’s how it goes.”
Both teams finished with 13 field goals for the game as the Panthers topped Churubusco in field goal percentage at 41 percent (13-of-32).
Two free throws by Tyler Arrowsmith gave Churubusco its’ final 32-31 lead in the fourth quarter.
Playing with four fouls, Reynolds came off the bench to hit two crucial shots for the Panthers.
The Prairie Heights (17-8) lead grew to 38-34 with Josh LeFever and Tavin Herendeen both fouling out for Churubusco.
Monk drove the lane cutting the lead to 38-36 with 22.5 seconds left.
The Panthers gave the Eagles a chance going 0-for-3 at the free throw line in the final seconds.
With 4.2 left on the clock, Hunter Nicodemus threw up a half court shot that went short.
Prairie Heights came away outscoring Churubusco 17-11 in the second half.
Coming up short of their first sectional title, the Eagles, according to McBride, didn’t disappoint.
“All five of the seniors (Dylan Herendeen, Tavin Herendeen, Jordan Turner, Kyle Monk, Hunter Nicodemus) bought into what we wanted to do here,” McBride stated. “They took us to one of the best records we’ve ever had. They brought a lot excitement to the gym again.
It’s just unfortunate we weren’t able to get them a sectional championship this year.”