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Poor third quarter dooms Trojans against Huskies

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New Castle’s Blake Burris (5) guards A.J. Field (15) of Hamilton Heights during Friday night’s boys basketball game in the Fieldhouse. Field scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and 21 for the game in addition to grabbing six rebounds as the Huskies defeated the host Trojans 76-65. Burris scored two points before exiting the game via fouls in the final period.
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New Castle’s Nicholas Grieser (24) looks for a teammate to throw the ball to while guarded by Issiac Hickok (2) of Hamilton Heights during Friday night’s boys basketball game in the Fieldhouse. Grieser had his best game ever as a Trojan on the hardwood, posting a double-double of 20 points and 13 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to get a victory as the visiting Huskies won 76-65.
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New Castle's Luke Bumbalough (3) dribbles the ball while guarded on the perimeter by Gus Etchison (0) of Hamilton Heights during Friday night's boys basketball game in the Fieldhouse. Bumbalough scored 16 of his game-high 29 points for the Trojans in the fourth quarter, but Etchison had 26 points for the visiting Huskies, including 10-of-12 at the free throw line, as Hamilton Heights upended New Castle 76-65.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

The Class 3A No. 2 New Castle High School boys basketball team played a poor third quarter during Friday night’s basketball game against visiting Hamilton Heights in the Fieldhouse and consequently saw its 18-game winning streak in the home venue come to a screeching halt.

The Trojans shot 1-for-10 from the field, were outrebounded 14-5 and were outscored 22-5 in the decisive period which saw a 31-30 halftime lead dissipate into a 52-36 deficit at the end of the third quarter.

With the way the visiting Huskies were hitting their free throws, that deficit proved too much to overcome, and New Castle fell to Hamilton Heights 76-65.

The Huskies improved to 2-1 for the season and the Trojans dropped to 1-1.

It was the first loss on the Fieldhouse floor by a New Castle boys basketball team since March 4, 2017 when Connersville defeated the Trojans 59-44 in the championship game of Class 4A Sectional 9.

It also was the first loss in a home opener for the Trojans since Blue River Valley pulled off the feat 40-35 back on Nov. 25, 2008.

"This was a huge win for us," Hamilton Heights Coach Chad Ballenger said afterward. "New Castle doesn't lose many home openers in the Fieldhouse and we happened to catch them when they weren't shooting their best. Our guys did a great job of focusing on the task at hand and now they know they can beat the Trojans here with the sectional coming up next March."

Friday night, the rebounding was equal for both teams at 34 boards apiece, and there wasn’t a big discrepancy in turnovers as New Castle committed 11 to 10 for Hamilton Heights. It was shooting from both the field and the free throw line that was the difference in this contest.

The Trojans were just 21-for-57 from the floor (36.8 percent) and 12-of-21 from the charity stripe (57.1 percent). Contrast that to the Huskies’ 23-for-52 from the field (44.1 percent) and a sizzling 23-of-28 from the foul stripe (82.1 percent).

New Castle’s Nicholas Grieser was 7-of-11 from the field and Cole McDaniel 3-of-4. Take away those contributions from the New Castle total and the rest of the team was a combined 11-of-42 (26.2 percent).

The Trojans did make four more shots from three-point territory than did Hamilton Heights, but the two more field goals made by the visitors negated that, and the 11-point difference in made free throws was the deciding factor.

"Tonight just wasn't our night," New Castle Coach Daniel Cox said after the game. "We struggled putting the ball in the basket. When we fell behind, we seemed to rush shots. This game was an outlier, as we practiced really well this week. We're a different team with Mason (Gillis) still out, and we're still trying to find out who we are."

The Huskies came ready to play and grabbed a pair of eight-point leads at 12-4 and 17-9 before the Trojans closed the gap with a 9-3 spree to end the first quarter and trailed just 20-18 after one period.

Luke Bumbalough led New Castle in scoring in the opening eight minutes with eight points and Nicholas Grieser added seven, while sophomore Gus Etchison scored seven points, Kray Leininger six, and A.J. Field five for Hamilton Heights.

The Huskies continued to lead in the opening minutes of the second quarter, scoring five of the first seven points of the period on a Camron Knott three-pointer and another Etchison bucket to offset a basket by Nicholas Grieser and led 25-20 at the 6:36 mark of the period.

But then Bumbalough hit the second of two free throws, Cole McDaniel buried the second of his trio of three-pointers in the game, and Nicholas Grieser stole an inbounds pass and went the distance for a lay-up that put the Trojans up 26-25 with 5:29 remaining in the second quarter, prompting a timeout by the Huskies.

After the brief break and a missed shot by Hamilton Heights, Bumbalough converted a traditional three-point play at the other end for a 29-25 Trojan advantage with 4:51 remaining in the first half.

But that proved to be the high-water mark for the hosts in the game, as they struggled to score the remainder of the first half. New Castle clung to a narrow 31-30 lead at intermission. Knott had six points in the second period to lead the visitors.

"I looked up at the scoreboard near the end of the first half and was surprised were were up one," Cox remarked. "It felt like we should have been down by several points, as we had no rhythm to our play. We wanted to come out the second half, play good defense, hit shots, and set the tone, but Etchison went off on us and suddenly we were down eight points."

Whatever Coach Ballenger said to his squad at halftime did a world of good as the Huskies opened the third quarter with a trey from Issiac Hickok and three straight driving lay-ups by Etchison to go on a 9-0 run and grab a 39-31 advantage with 6:14 remaining in the third period.

"Etchison is going to be a special player for us," Ballenger said. "He's still young and learning the game on the varsity level."

Bumbalough hit a charity toss, Etchison got another lay-up, and Nicholas Grieser scored the only basket for the Trojans in the third period to pull the hosts to within 41-34 at the 4:54 mark, and New Castle called timeout.

Hamilton Heights used the brief break to get re-charged, and Field sank two free throws, Hickok drained another shot from behind the arc, and Etchison converted an old-fashioned three-point play to complete an 8-0 run by the visitors and stake them to a 49-34 lead with 2:51 left in the third quarter.

But Etchison was whistled for a technical foul on the play and Blake Burris swished the two technical foul shots to make the score 49-36. New Castle couldn’t score on the ensuing possession, and Knott canned another three-pointer at the 2:15 mark to boost the Huskies’ lead up to 52-36.

No one scored the remainder of the period, and the visitors led by that score after three.

Things got worse for the Trojans at the start of the fourth quarter, as Knott and Field hit consecutive buckets to give Hamilton Heights its largest lead (21 points) at 57-36 with 6:36 left in the final period.

The Huskies got only one more field goal the rest of the quarter (a Field trey) as New Castle starting making somewhat of a comeback, starting with a three-pointer from Bumbalough at the 6:05 mark.

The Trojans’ strategy was to try to steal the ball, and if that didn’t succeed, foul to send the visitors to the charity stripe, hoping they would miss.

They didn’t (much). Hamilton Heights went to the free throw line 19 times in the fourth quarter had hit 17 of those shots. Etchison was 6-for-6, Field was 7-for-8, and Hudson Hochstedler was 4-for-5.

"We were outstanding at the line that fourth quarter," Ballenger added. "It's great to see our guys step up and hit their free throws in a situation like that. Putting the ball through the hoop is the name of the game, and we were just a bit better at that tonight."

Bumbalough led the charge back with 16 points in the final period and Nicholas Grieser had five, but the closest the hosts could come was 70-60 on a Bumbalough trey with 41 seconds left in the contest.

For the Huskies, Etchison finished with 26 points and six rebounds, Field had 21 points and six boards, Knott tallied 13 points and snared seven caroms, Leininger had six points and seven rebounds, and Hickok had six points and four boards.

For New Castle. Bumbalough scored a game-high 29 points and added six rebounds. Nicholas Grieser had his best-ever game as a Trojan with a double-double of 20 points and a game-high 13 boards, McDaniel had nine points and corralled four caroms, and William Grieser had five rebounds.

New Castle did win the junior varsity game 49-38. Deven Fielden scored 16 points and Caleb Grow nine to lead the Trojans, while Isaac Wilson had a game-high 18 points for Hamilton Heights.

Another positive note from Friday night was Luke Bumbalough surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his Trojan career and now has 1,027 points. This is the first time that new Castle has had two 1,000-point scorers on the same team. Mason Gillis (who is recuperating from an injury) is the other member of the squad with more than 1,000 points.

New Castle played at Anderson Saturday night and hosts Shelbyville Friday in a girl-boy doubleheader on Silver Anniversary Night.

"One game doesn't define us and never will," Cox added. "No one is going to feel sorry for us, particularly Anderson, who's had a week to prepare for us. We'll learn what we can from this game and need to come out with an edge when we face the Indians."

Hamilton Heights 76, New Castle 65

HAMILTON HEIGHTS (76)

Etchison 8-16 10-12 26, Knott 5-13 0-0 13, Field 5-10 9-10 21, Leininger 3-5 0-1 6, Hochstedler 0-2 4-5 4, Hickok 2-6 0-0 6, Vonfeldt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-52 23-28 76.

NEW CASTLE (65)

Bumbalough 9-29 5-11 29, Burris 0-4 2-2 2, Hardwick 1-8 0-0 3, W. Grieser 1-1 0-0 2, N. Grieser 7-11 5-8 20, McDaniel 3-4 0-0 9, Matney 0-0 0-0 0, Chamberlin 0-0 0-0 0, Blessinger 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-57 12-21 65.

Hamilton Hts.`20`10`22`24`-76

New Castle`18`13`5`29`-65

3-point goals – Hamilton Hts. 7 (Knott 3, Field 2, Hickok 2), New Castle 11 (Bumbalough 6, McDaniel 3, Hardwick. N. Grieser). Rebounds – Hamilton Hts. 34 (Knott 7, Leininger 7, Etchison 6, Field 6, Hickok 4), New Castle 34 (N. Grieser 13, Bumbalough 6, W. Grieser 5, McDaniel 4). Total fouls – Hamilton Hts. 16, New Castle 23. Turnovers – Hamilton Hts. 10, New Castle 11. Fouled out – Burris. Technical foul – Etchison. JV score – New Castle 49, Hamilton Hts. 38. Records – Hamilton Hts. 2-1, New Castle 1-1.