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Trojans lose to Royals on buzzer-beating shot

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New Castle senior Blake Burris (5) closely guards Hamilton Southeastern sophomore Vinny Buccilla (with ball) during Tuesday night's boys basketball game in Fishers. Burris scored six points and grabbed five rebounds while Buccilla tallied eight points. The host Royals edged the Trojans 71-70 on a last-second shot.
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New Castle senior Luke Bumbalough (3-green) attempts another shot over the outstretched hand of Hamilton Southern senior Noah Smith (1) as the host Royals' Kole Hornbuckle (3-white) and Landon Morris (35) watch during the first half of Tuesday night's boys basketball game in Fishers. Bumbalough recorded game highs of 41 points and six rebounds, but the visiting Trojans were nipped 71-70 on a last-second shot.
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New Castle 6-5 sophomore Brandon Matney (33) battles host Hamilton Southeastern’s 7-2 junior Mabor Majak (50) for the opening tip during Tuesday night’s boys basketball game in Fishers. Majak scored 11 points in the game, but Matney had more rebounds (five) than did Majak (three).

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

FISHERS – The New Castle High School boys basketball team went on the road Tuesday night to Hamilton Southeastern, ranked No. 11 this week in the coaches’ all-class poll, led by four points at the end of the third quarter, shot 4-for-5 from the field and 11-of-13 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter – and lost.

That’s correct folks. Royals 6-7 junior Chris Grubbs launched a shot with a little over one second left in the game that settled into the net as time expired to lift Hamilton Southeastern to a spine-tingling 71-70 victory over the Trojans.

It was a tough loss to swallow for visiting New Castle, as it slipped to 9-7 for the season after out-playing the much-taller Royals in almost every category except one, which will be covered shortly.

"Our guys played a heck of a game," New Castle Coach Daniel Cox said afterward. "We did everything we could to win the game for 28 minutes, but we failed to close them (Royals) out. They're a really talented team with size, strength, quickness, shooters, and a post presence, and you just can't turn the ball over to a team like that because your mistakes get magnified. We're glad we played them because we learn a lot about ourselves, but the loss is still tough to take."

Hamilton Southeastern improved to 13-5 and goes on the road for its next three games, starting at No. 2 Carmel on Friday.

Trojan senior Luke Bumbalough had another outstanding effort, as he poured in a game-high 41 points on all kinds of baskets from outside and inside, hit five three-pointers, and was 8-for-9 in shooting free throws. He also tied for game-high honors in rebounding with six boards.

The Royals tried all sorts of combinations in guarding Bumbalough, but none were very effective. He also got some help in scoring from outside, as Mason Hardwick hit a quartet of three-pointers and tallied 14 points.

New Castle and HSE ended up even on the boards, as both teams corralled 26 caroms. The Trojans shot better percentage-wise from both the field and charity stripe, and canned 10 shots from behind the arc compared to just three for the Royals.

So why did New Castle lose Tuesday night? Turnovers is the answer.

The Trojans committed 11 miscues with the ball, which isn’t all that terrible, but the visitors committed four turnovers in the fourth quarter, and it seemed HSE took advantage of every single one.

Case in point was the final 30 seconds. New Castle saw a 10-point fourth-quarter lead shrivel to only one after the Royals’ Noah Smith drained two free throws with 22.7 seconds left to make the score 70-69.

HSE, which had employed full-court pressure after falling behind by 10 points, prompted a New Castle player to step on the out-of-bounds line a couple of seconds after in-bounding the ball after Smith’s two charity tosses.

The Royals almost turned the ball over themselves, but didn’t, and called timeout with 11.7 seconds left. Whether or not Grubbs was the first option to take the final shot is unknown, but he did so and hit it. Ball game!

So yes, it was a disappointing loss for the Green and White, but it was a great game to witness as it went right down to the wire.

In a high-scoring first quarter, New Castle raced out to a 15-8 advantage with 3:49 left in the period, prompting a timeout by the hosts. After the brief break, HSE outscored the Trojans 11-6 to pull to within 21-18 after one.

Bumbalough scored 13 points and Hardwick six for New Castle in the opening period, while five players scored for the Royals, led by nine from Aaron Etherington.

The scoring pace slowed a bit in the second quarter, and the hosts were able to pull into a tie at 23-all after two Etherington charity tosses with 5:28 remaining in the second period.

No one scored for two minutes until Bumbalough hit a basket, and Blake Burris notched a bucket at the 1:52 mark for a 28-25 Trojan lead.

The Royals responded with a couple baskets to grab a 29-28 advantage with 48 seconds remaining in the first half, but Bumbalough hit a bucket three seconds before the halftime horn to give new Castle a 30-29 lead at intermission.

The Trojans were 11-of-26 from the field (42.3 percent) in the opening 16 minutes, but six of those baskets were three-pointers. HSE countered with 12-of-25 from the floor (48 percent) and hit a pair of treys.

The third quarter was tight. New Castle’s Nicholas Grieser drained a three-pointer for a 34-31 Trojan lead, but the Royals’ 7-2 center Mabor Majak converted a traditional three point play to put his team back on top at 36-35 with 5:17 left in the third quarter.

Bumbalough then hit a basket and also converted a traditional three-point play for five straight points and a 40-36 New Castle lead at the 4:05 mark of the quarter.

HSE did come back to tie the game twice at 42-and 44-all, but the Trojans managed to outscore the hosts 6-2 after the latter and led 50-46 after three.

Bumbalough scored another 12 points in the third frame and Nicholas Grieser added five, while Kole Hornbuckle, Grubbs, and Vinny Buccilla led HSE with four points apiece.

Led by five points from Hardwick, three from Bumbalough, and a pair of successful charity tosses apiece from Nicholas Grieser and Burris, New Castle outscored the Royals 11-5 to start the fourth quarter and grabbed that 10-point lead at 61-51 with 4:18 remaining in the game.

But with the defensive pressure causing some turnovers and Noah Smith, Grubbs, and Etherington putting the ball through the basket from either the field or the foul stripe, the hosts gradually whittled the Trojan lead down to a single point, setting the stage for Grubbs’ end-of-game theatrics.

Bumbalough added another nine points in the fourth period for the visitors, while Smith scored 10 points, Grubbs seven, and Etherington five for the Royals in the final frame.

New Castle ended up shooting 22-of-42 (52.4 percent) from the field and 16-of-20 (80 percent) from the free throw line.

The Royals weren’t bad, either, as the connected on 25-of-50 (50 percent) from the floor and 18-of-25 (72 percent) from the charity stripe. HSE also had only five turnovers in the contest.

"This team has come so far defensively since that Mt. Vernon game in December," Cox remarked, "and I'll go to battle anytime and anywhere with them. I love these guys. Perhaps we'll learn something from this loss that will benefit us somewhere down the road."

The victorious hosts had four players score in double figures. Etherington led with 16 points, followed by Grubbs with 13, Smith 12, and Majak 11. Grubbs had six rebounds and Etherington five.

Bumbalough and Hardwick were the only double-figure scorers for the Trojans. Nicholas Grieser had seven points and Burris six. As noted, Bumbalough led New Castle in rebounding with six boards, and Brandon Matney and Burris snared five caroms apiece.

HSE also won the junior varsity game 64-51. Elliott Robinson scored 12 points and Sam Jacobs 11 to lead the Royals, while Trey Miller scored a game-high 22 points to lead New Castle.

The Trojans play at undefeated Delta Friday night in a Hoosier Heritage Conference contest.

"We're not going to sit around and be sad and feel sorry for ourselves after this loss," Cox added, "because we've got to turn around and go on the road to play the No. 1 team in the state who is 19-0. Our guys have risen to the challenge before, and I expect them to do it again."

Hamilton Southeastern 71, New Castle 70

NEW CASTLE (70)

Bumbalough 14-23 8-9 41, Burris 2-5 2-2 6, Hardwick 4-9 2-3 14, N. Grieser 1-2 4-6 7, Matney 0-1 0-0 0, McDaniel 0-1 0-0 0, Blessinger 1-1 0-0 2, W. Grieser 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-42 16-20 70.

HAMILTON SOUTHEASTERN (71)

Smith 4-9 4-4 12, Etherington 4-11 5-6 16, Grubbs 5-9 3-3 13, Buccilla 3-5 2-3 8, Majak 4-6 3-4 11, Hornbuckle 3-5 0-0 6, Beemon 0-2 0-0 0, Morris 2-2 1-5 5, Miller 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-50 18-25 71.

New Castle`21`9`20`20`-70

Hamilton SE`19`10`17`25`-71

3-point goals – New Castle 10 (Bumbalough 5, Hardwick 4, N. Grieser), Hamilton SE 3 (Etherington 3). Rebounds – New Castle 26 (Bumbalough 6, Burris 5, Matney 5), Hamilton SE 26 (Grubbs 6, Etherington 5). Total fouls – New Castle 21, Hamilton SE 17. Turnovers – New Castle 11, Hamilton SE 5. Fouled out – Matney. JV score – Hamilton SE 64, New Castle 51. Records – New Castle 9-7, Hamilton SE 13-5.