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Eagles edge Trojans for championship of Class 3A Sectional 24

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New Castle senior Luke Bumbalough (3, with ball) tries to get past the defense of Delta defender Zach Garner (3) during Saturday night's championship game of boys basketball Class 3A Sectional 24 in the Fieldhouse. Bumbalough scored 21 points in the game and finished No. 2 on the all-time career scoring list for Trojan basketball, but the Eagles edged New Castle for the sectional title 59-55.
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New Castle senior Mason Hardwick (10-green) drives the ball between Delta defenders Tyler Wilburn (10-white) and Brady Hunt (32) as the Trojans’ Nicholas Grieser (24) during Saturday night’s championship game of boys basketball Class 3A Sectional 24 in the Fieldhouse. Hardwick scored 17 points in his final game in a New Castle basketball uniform, but Delta won the title with a 59-55 victory.
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Senior Josh Bryan (5) of Class 3A No. 1 Delta tries to get past the sticky defense applied by New Castle seniors Mason Hardwick (10) and Nicholas Grieser (24) during Saturday night's championship game of boys basketball Class 3A Sectional 24 in the Fieldhouse. Bryan scored a game-high 25 points as the Eagles remained the state's only undefeated team by edging the Trojans 59-55 for the title.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

Another huge crowd showed up at the Fieldhouse Saturday night to watch Class 3A No. 1 undefeated Delta play defending champion New Castle for the championship of Class 3A Sectional 24 and certainly got its money’s worth in the deal.

The Eagles and tourney-host Trojans battled toe-to-toe for 32 minutes before Delta pulled out a 59-55 victory that propelled it to this Saturday’s Class 3A Regional 6 at Marion with a perfect 26-0 record. New Castle bowed out of the tournament with a 13-11 record.

Despite the differences in records, there isn’t much separating these two teams, and this title game was similar to their regular season meeting at Delta on Feb. 8 when the Trojans had a 12-point lead only to see the Eagles rally for a six-point win.

Saturday night, both teams hit 21 field goals and nine three-pointers. The difference in the outcome was that Delta made 11 trips to the free throw line in the contest and canned eight of those attempts, while New Castle had just four charity tosses and sank them all. That difference in made free throws accounted for the difference on the scoreboard.

“We knew this would be a tough game for us,” Delta Coach Mark Detwiler said among the celebration on the Fieldhouse floor after the game. “(Luke) Bumbalough is a special player for them and deserves all the accolades he gets. They (Trojans) seemed to hit every shot they took in the first quarter. But our guys never panicked when we got down, played like we have all season, and survived to play another week. To get this win on their floor is really special for our players and fans.”

In a couple of other parameters in the game, the Eagles outrebounded the Trojans 25-16 but committed eight turnovers to just five for the tourney hosts. New Castle did not have a single miscue with the basketball in the second half.

Led by senior Mason Hardwick, the Trojans came out on fire to start the game. Hardwick scored the first points of the contest on a three-pointer with 5:54 remaining in the first quarter. Delta senior Josh Bryan tied it 13 seconds later with a trey.

New Castle then bolted to a 10-5 lead only to have the Eagles race back to tie it at 10-all on a Brady Hunt field goal with 2:47 left in the opening period.

It was at this point that the Trojans got a bit of separation, scoring the last seven points of the quarter to grad a 17-10 advantage after one.

Five players scored for New Castle in its 7-for-9 first period, led by Hardwick’s eight points. Josh Greenberg has one-half of Delta’s points in its 4-of-9 first quarter.

“I thought we got off to a really good start,” New Castle Coach Daniel Cox said after the game. “We hit our shots, defended well, and got a nice lead. But Delta is a very good team and undefeated for a reason. They managed to work themselves back into the game and got a nice lead for themselves in the fourth quarter. To our guys’ credit, we battled back, got within a point, and had a chance to get the lead back late in the game. But hats off to Delta. They made the plays down the stretch to get the win.”

After Bryan scored for the Eagles early in the second period, Trojan senior Luke Bumbalough and Hardwick buried shots from behind the arc sandwiched around a basket from Delta’s Conner Bedwell, and New Castle had its largest lead of the game at 23-14 with 5:56 left in the second quarter.

This prompted a timeout by the Eagles’ Coach Detwiler, who then called a second timeout 26 seconds after the first one. Bryan hit a free throw and then a bucket to pull Delta to within 23-17 before Bumbalough hit a basket for a 25-17 Trojan lead with 4:15 remaining in the first half.

The pace having slowed considerably, no one scored for more than two minutes. Greenberg then nailed a three-pointer, pulling the Eagles to within 25-20.

New Castle’s Collin Blessinger got loose underneath for a lay-up but Bryan hit another basket, pulling the Eagles to within 27-22 with 1:07 left before the halftime horn. No one scored again in the period, and the Trojans took that five-point lead into the locker room at halftime.

A Bumbalough bucket 38 seconds into the third quarter restored a seven-point lead to New Castle, but Bryan buried back-to-back three-pointers, the latter at the 5:46 mark of the third period, pulling Delta to within one point at 29-28 to the delight of the large throng of Eagle fans in attendance.

The Trojans called a timeout shortly thereafter, and it was nip-and-tuck the rest of the way.

Eighteen seconds after the brief break, Hardwick drained a trey for a 32-28 New Castle advantage. Delta’s Brady Hunt then hit a pair of baskets, sandwiched around one from the Trojans’ Bumbalough, and after New Castle missed a shot, Bryan came down and sank his third trey of the quarter to give the Eagles their first lead of the game at 35-34 with 3:19 remaining in the period.

The hot action continued. Bumbalough swished two free throws at the 1:27 mark but Bryant restored the lead to Delta with another basket. Hardwick buried his fifth three-pointer of the game with 46 seconds left in the third quarter for a 39-37 Trojan advantage, but Bedwell rebounded a Greenberg miss and laid the ball in at the buzzer to tie the game up at 39-all after three. 

“Conner Bedwell is the best sixth man in the state as far as I’m concerned,” Detwiler added. “He would be a starter for most other teams. He always seems to provide a spark for our team when he comes in, and just makes plays to help us win.”

That hustle play by Bedwell to end the third quarter seemed to ignite the Eagles. Delta’s Tyler Wilburn, who scored 20 points against New Castle on Feb. 8 but none so far in this game, drilled a three-pointer 48 seconds into the fourth quarter and Bedwell followed with another basket 36 seconds later for a 44-39 Eagle lead at the 6:36 mark of the final period. Blessinger tallied a bucket off an an assist from Bumbalough, but Hunt responded with a three-pointer and Wilburn added another to boost the Delta lead to its zenith at 50-41 with 5:11 left in the contest, prompting a New Castle timeout as the Eagle crowd roared.

Down but not out, the Trojans started fighting back. Bumbalough sank a bucket, and after a Delta turnover, Bumbalough converted a traditional three-point play to pull New Castle to within 50-46 with 4:07 left, plenty of time to make a complete comeback.

The Eagles called timeout and decided to run clock. Delta’s Zach Garner was fouled with 3:13 remaining, but missed the front end of the one-and-bonus. The Trojans rebounded and eventually New Castle senior Nicholas Grieser drained a shot from behind the arc to trim the Eagle lead to a single point at 50-49 with 2:03 left in the game.

Delta called timeout with 1:47 remaining. After Bedwell missed a shot (the Eagles’ only miss from the field in the fourth quarter), the Trojans rebounded with a chance to grab the lead. But New Castle missed a shot, Bedwell scored at the other end, and delta was up 52-49 with 52 seconds left in the contest.

The Trojans missed two more shots, Bryan was fouled after each one, and he canned four charity tosses in a row, the latter with 15.5 seconds remaining, to put Delta in the driver’s seat 56-49.

A Bumbalough trey pulled New Castle to within 56-52 with 9.7 seconds left. Greenberg was fouled and he made the second of two free throws. The Trojans’ Blake Burris them nailed a three-pointer to pull New Castle to within 57-55 with 3.8 seconds left.

After a Trojan timeout, Hunt was fouled with three seconds left. Hunt swished both charity tosses, putting them up 59-55 and effectively icing the game for the Eagles. A desperation heave by Burris was off the mark and Delta and its fans celebrated the big win and the Eagles’ first sectional championship in boys basketball since 2011.

Delta was 12-of-18 from the field (66.7 percent) in the second half. For the game, the Eagles were 21-of-39 (53.8 percent) from the floor and New Castle countered with 21-of-45 (46.7 percent) from the field.

For Delta, Bryant scored a game-high 25 points, Hunt had 11, Greenberg nine, Bedwell eight, and Wilburn six. Hunt grabbed nine rebounds and Bedwell six. The Eagles used only six players in the contest. Delta faces Tippecanoe Valley in this Saturday’s second semifinal game of Class 3A Regional 6 at Marion.

Bumbalough led the Trojans with 21 points, Hardwick had 17, Nicholas Grieser and Burris five apiece, Blessinger four, and Brandon Matney three. Blessinger led New Castle in rebounding with four boards. The Trojans bid adieu to seven seniors: Bumbalough, Burris, Hardwick, Nicholas Grieser, Nolan Beam, Wes Chamberlin, and Mason Gillis. “This group of seven seniors has been really special,” Cox added. “They have been a part of a lot of positive things for New Castle basketball, and definitely will be missed. It’s all about them right now, but we’ll get back to work over the summer to prepare for another successful season next year.”

Delta 59, New Castle 55

NEW CASTLE (55)

Bumbalough 8-24 3-3 21, Burris 2-6 0-0 5, Hardwick 6-8 0-0 17, N. Grieser 2-2 0-0 5, Matney 1-1 1-1 3, Blessinger 2-2 0-0 4, W. Grieser 0-1 0-0 0, McDaniel 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-45 4-4 55.

DELTA (59)

Garner 0-1 0-1 0, Bryan 8-13 5-6 25, Wilburn 2-3 0-0 6, Greenberg 3-7 1-2 9, Hunt 4-8 2-2 11, Bedwell 4-7 0-0 8. Totals 21-39 8-11 59.

New Castle 17 10 12 16 —55

Delta 10 12 17 20 —59

3-point goals – New Castle 9 (Hardwick 5, Bumbalough 2, Burris, N. Grieser), Delta 9 (Bryan 4, Wilburn 2, Greenberg 2, Hunt). Rebounds – New Castle 16 (Blessinger 4), Delta 25 (Hunt 9, Bedwell 6). Total fouls – New Castle 16, Delta 8. Turnovers – New Castle 5, Delta 8. Records – New Castle 13-11, Delta 26-0.