BY MARK SALUKE KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — FAIRMOUNT — In only its second game of the boys basketball season, Tri-Central emerged from Madison-Grant battle tested and victorious Saturday night, finding itself on the winning end of a 60-54 contest that got a little too close for the Trojans’ comfort near the end.
Having led the entire way — including double-digit stretches through much of the second and third quarters — TC found itself clinging to a 53-52 edge with 1:26 to play. Dillon Smith was visibly upset after missing the front end of a one-and-bonus and, after rebounding and advancing the ball past midcourt, the Argylls called for a timeout.
The hosts then went to Trevor McNutt who, after three quiet quarters, had caught fire for 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the final quarter. But his shot in the lane with :32 showing missed, and Dalton Davis grabbed the rebound and found a dashing Smith, who converted a layup at the other end.
Fouled on the play, he swished the freebie to put TC up 56-52 with :28 remaining and the Trojans kept the hosts at arm’s length the rest of the way to preserve its first win of the season.
“He made a couple mistakes but didn’t back down, and he got us a bucket when we really needed it,” TC coach Kyle Zahn said of Smith’s basket. “McNutt was able to get some good penetration in the fourth quarter. I thought our defense was really good in the first half. We held them to 20 points. In the second half, they hit some tough shots that we contested.”
The Trojans (1-1) jumped to a 16-9 lead at the end of the first quarter behind nine points from Seth Blunck, who finished with a game-high 18.
“Seth played great throughout the game,” Zahn said. “He got us off to a good start early, but he was just solid throughout the entire game. And Mike Trine in the second quarter, his points were absolutely huge. I think that stretch he gave us was just really big.”
Trine came off the bench to net TC’s first eight points of the second frame, sandwiching two 3-pointers around a deuce on 3-of-3 shooting to put the Trojans up 24-14 on the way to a 29-20 lead at the half.
Madison-Grant (4-3), which shot just 7 of 24 (29 percent) overall and 1 of 10 from beyond the arc in the first half, started to make some noise in the third quarter, getting to within three points, 39-36, on Matt Carey’s hoop at :24. But Garrett Dick’s buzzer-beating trey gave the Trojans a much-needed six-point cushion as TC headed into the fourth up 42-36.
The Argylls shot 53 percent from the field (16 of 30) over the final 16 minutes to make for an interesting game down the stretch.
“The problem is, we’re not getting off to very good starts,” Madison-Grant coach Brian Trout said. “And when you’re trying to come back from double-digits every game, it’s just not going to happen.”
The Argylls stayed within a bucket through much of the final eight minutes but never did manage to grab the lead.
“The two games I’ve watched them play live, they had a double-digit deficit and came back to win,” Zahn said. “When they got on the run we played tentatively on defense and on offense it was like four guys watching one rather than executing as a team. Once we got back to that, I thought we got some late buckets we needed to give us the win.”
Madison-Grant placed four players in double digits. Aside from McNutt, Carey netted 12 and Aaron Patton scored 11. Big man Tanner Wise, a 6-foot-9 junior, led the Argylls with 13 points.
Colton Leininger scored nine points for TC, while Smith chipped in eight.