CENTERBURG — A defensive change and a halftime challenge from the coach helped spark the Centerburg boys basketball team Friday.
The Trojans led visiting East Knox by just two points at halftime, but a zone defense and a higher level of intensity helped turn it around in the second half as they posted a 65-51 Mid-Buckeye Conference victory.
“I think they got challenged at halftime,” said Centerburg coach Jim Simpson. “East Knox had played the way they wanted in the first half and we needed to change our ways. They got an awful lot of second shots. ... I think the zone helped. Our guys were in foul trouble and it was our safest bet.”
Centerburg’s Brandt Lambert exploded from the gate, scoring the first seven points of the game. The Trojans (12-2 overall, 9-0 MBC) pushed the lead to 11 late in the quarter and looked to be in control.
But that’s when East Knox (3-9, 1-8), behind the play of Luke Branstool and Devin Wears, bounced back. The Bulldogs used a 10-0 run to knot the game at 20.
“In the first half, we tried to spread it out, get the ball to Luke (Branstool) and let him create. He did well, driving and dishing the ball,” said East Knox coach Don McDaniel. “In the second half, we knew they were going to change (defenses) and we did not respond. We started standing around and not participating. We let them dictate.”
Collin Bumpus provided the spark for the Trojans in the third quarter, hitting two 3s and scoring eight points as Centerburg pushed the lead to eight points (40-32). Skyler Simpson then took over the reigns for the Trojans, scoring 11 of the team’s next 13 points as they pushed the lead to 15.
“Collin hit some big shots for us. His big buckets helped us turn it around in the third quarter. And defensively, he did a real nice job,” coach Simpson said.
Centerburg was able to ice the game at the line down the stretch, making 7-of-10 free throws in the final three minutes, including its final four.
Skyler Simpson led the Trojans with 21 points. Lambert added 14 points, and Bumpus 13 points and three assists. Drew Osborne checked in with seven points and eight rebounds, and T.T. Thompson came off the bench to pour in seven points.
“We’ve been real fortunate to get that (three players in double figures),” coach Simpson said. “We had some kids come off the bench and play well. T.T. gave us some good minutes and Collin gave us a good spark.”
East Knox was led by Branstool, who had 16 points, 13 rebounds and three assists. Wears added 13 points and eight rebounds, while Michael Moreland had seven points.
“The team played real hard,” said McDaniel. “They did everything we asked them to. I think the kids are starting to understand that we can play with anyone. We just haven’t done it a whole game yet.”
Both teams are back in action at 6 p.m. tonight. Centerburg travels to rival Highland, while East Knox plays host to Johnstown.
“We’ve got to come more mentally ready to play than we did tonight,” Simpson said. “There were a lot of lessons to be learned tonight. There were some things we cannot have if we want to continue to win ballgames.”
Centerburg also won the junior varsity game, 69-51. Lyle Lindsey led the Trojans with 24 points. Devon Moreland added 13 and Garrison Myles 12. East Knox was led by Cody Totten, who scored 13 points. Nick McCament and Joey Montoyo both added 12.
East Knox was able to avoid to sweep with a 28-24 victory in the freshman game. Nick Myers led Centerburg with eight points, while Jacob Sutton added six.