BY JIM MCCARTER KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — MICHIGANTOWN — Christmas dinner will taste a little better in Greentown after the Eastern boys basketball team won its first game of the season in very convincing fashion Saturday night. The Comets destroyed Clinton Central 78-43 on the Bulldogs’ home court.
The Comets (1-5) dominated every facet of the game. Eastern beat the Bulldogs to loose balls, dominated the boards 40-18, shut down Clinton Central’s top scorer and cut short every run the Bulldogs could muster.
“Our intentions for [Saturday] were to be aggressive and stay aggressive and it paid off,” Eastern coach Mike Springer said. “We played extremely hard and hit some shots early that helped us. And we hit 18 of 26 free throws for 70 percent. We hit some big free throws that allowed us to stay ahead when Clinton Central made a mini-run.”
Leading 4-2 in the early going, Eastern hit its next four shots and added a free throw to take a 14-2 advantage with 2:28 left in the first quarter. The Comets never looked back, extending the lead each quarter.
Clinton Central (2-5) forced Springer to call timeout with 5:33 to go in the second quarter with a 6-2 run that cut Eastern’s lead to 19-14. The Comets responded to that challenge, putting together a 10-1 attack that put them back in control, 29-15, with 2:57 to go in the half.
“They jumped on us from the start and we were playing catch-up all night,” Clinton Central coach Scott Leighty said. “They were more physical and killed us on the boards, and were able to get dribble penetration against our defense. Our best shooters had off nights and we only shot 33 percent from the line as a team. You’re not going to win many games like that.”
Braden Gibson led the Comets with 26 points, and right behind him was Jacob Kinder with 24 points and nine rebounds. Braden Evans pitched in eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
“This was a really great team effort,” Springer said. “Gibson and Kinder led the scoring and Evans played extremely well in the post. Chandler Buck did a good job and Blake Shrader and Trey Thomas gave us some positive minutes off the bench. Our kids were diving for loose balls, taking charges and did a great job rebounding, all of which put us in position to win.”
Eastern returns to play on Jan. 10 when Maconaquah visits Greentown.
The Bulldogs will get a few days off for Christmas, then will play two games while hosting the Clinton Central Holiday Tourney on Jan. 2-3.