HUNTINGTON — It took the Eagles 37 years to win a sectional championship. Now they’re going to the state finals.
Culver Military Academy’s Juwan Brescacin slammed home a two-handed dunk in transition with 2.8 seconds remaining, putting the exclamation point on the win as CMA claimed a 51-49 victory over Columbia City at the Class 3A Huntington North Semistate Saturday.
“I really can’t put it into words. I’m so proud of our kids,” said first-year CMA head coach Mark Galloway. “From day one accepting me as a coach and believing in what we do, and you can see it carry over into the game where they believed in themselves, they believed in each other… They just played their hearts out.”
Saturday’s game was CMA’s first ever semistate appearance, coming on the heels of a historic run that has included the program’s first ever regional and sectional championships since joining the IHSAA.
“We’ve gotten better every week we’ve played,” said junior point guard Jermaine Myers, who finished with 15 points, six assists and five steals at the game. “Coach really stressed that every week we want to come in and improve something, whether it’s our defense or our offense. We’ve really matured as a group and meshed together.”
The Eagles got off to a rocky start in the contest, coughing up six turnovers in the first frame to fall behind 14-9 at the first quarter break before settling in in the second frame. A steal for a layup by Myers, followed by a Brescacin layup off the baseline knotted the score at 20-all at the 39-second mark of the second, but Columbia City’s Derek Hinen hit a pull-up jumper in the lane with 2.4 on the clock to give his team a slight 22-20 advantage going into the break.
“It may have been nerves. We knew that we were struggling in the first half,” said Brescacin. “As soon as we got into the locker room, coach emphasized intensity. We weren’t playing with that intensity we usually play with so as soon as we came out we matched their intensity and even went beyond that.”
The Eagles grabbed a 25-22 lead on a Willie Strong traditional 3-point play at the 6:55 mark of the third, and the two teams traded leads once more before CMA claimed the lead for good at the 1:12 mark of the third period.
CMA stretched its lead to as much as seven points in the fourth quarter and led by six with just over half a minute remaining after freshman Hayes Barnes iced a pair of free throws in the double bonus to put his team up 49-43, although Columbia City battled valiantly until the final horn, even burying a 3-pointer from the buzzer following Brescacin’s power jam to bring the score to its final.
Meyers and Brescacin each scored 15 points to lead CMA, while Strong scored seven, Barnes had five, and 7-foot-1 center Chier Ajou had six in the win. The Eagles scored at a 75-percent field goal clip in the second half while holding their opponents to just 38.5 percent from the floor in the same span.
“The second half I think we were down in a stance, we switched Jermaine over on (Drew Benedict) and even though he still hit some big 3s we made that adjustment at half,” said Galloway. “We knew they were going to keep shooting 3s for sure, but we felt like we were going to guard them, and as they went deeper they made some but we rebounded and found a way.”
CMA 51, COLUMBIA CITY 49
At Class 3A Hungington North Semistate
Score by quarters
CC: 14 22 34 49
CMA: 9 20 35 51
COLUMBIA CITY (49): Daniel Woll 2, Tyler Mosher 6, Drew Benedict 18, Derek Hinen 8, Brandon Gay 10, Jared Murphy 2, Drew Burnsworth 3, Matt Rethlake 0, Ben Murphy 0; Totals: 18 4-9 49.
CMA (51): Jermaine Myers 15, Hayes Barnes 5, Juwan Brescacin 15, Willie Strong 7, Elijay Murray 0, Alex Dodane 3, Chier Ajou 6; Totals: 21 6-15 51.
3-point goals: CC 9 (Benedict 5, Gay 2, Hinen, Burnsworth), CMA 3 (Myers, Barnes, Dodane); Turnovers: CC 8, CMA 8; Rebounds: CC 15, CMA 21 (Ajou 8); Steals: CC 5, CMA 7 (Myers 5); Assists: CC 11, CMA 7 (Myers 6); Fouls (fouled out): CC 15 (Woll), CMA 14 (none); Records: Columbia City 19-6 (final), CMA 19-6.