BY PEDRO VELAZCO KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — BUNKER HILL — Peru’s boys basketball team led nearly the entire second half of the game against Maconaquah, and built its lead up to eight points with less than two minutes left Saturday night in the championship game of the Miami County Holiday Classic.
Then it all slipped away. Maconaquah staged a furious rally in the closing two minutes, forcing turnovers, hitting layups, getting fouled and working back into the game. The Braves took their first lead since just after halftime when point guard Trevor Hagan hit two free throws for a 56-55 advantage with just 0:09.4 left in the game.
Peru’s Eddie Childers was the next player to make a dramatic play. The senior guard got through the Maconaquah press, raced into the lane and sank a short jumper while getting fouled to re-take the lead with 3.3 seconds left. He hit the free throw for a 58-56 lead. Maconaquah’s K.J. Walton had the last gasp, but his running 3 at the buzzer was off target and Peru took the championship.
“With the time on the clock, I told Eddie, ‘We’ve got no timeouts, we’ve got to get it in bounds and you’ve got to go, you’ve got to get to the other end of the floor, try to create something,’” Peru coach Jim Metcalfe said. “We had to do something aggressive to get to the rim and not settle for a jump shot. Fortunately, he hit a big shot right there.
“Eddie’s spent a lot of time in the gym since the end of the season last year. He didn’t hit that shot by accident.”
That decided a thrilling game between county rivals whose only similarity is county of origin. Peru looked to be patient in the halfcourt and get the ball to 6-foot-11 center Seth Adelsperger in the halfcourt, then on the other end smother opportunities with size on defense. Maconaquah wanted to speed the game up with a variety of traps and pressure defenses. Each team had stretches where its style prevailed, leading to the back-and-forth finish, and two lead changes in the final 10 seconds.
Adelsperger led Peru (5-3) with 21 points and a dozen rebounds. He scored eight points in the fourth quarter, helping keep Peru ahead most of the frame. Childers added 16 points and Tyler Murphy 14.
Walton led the Braves (4-3) with 15 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Maconaquah got 10 points from Adam Harts, and even more hustle plays as he sparked Mac’s late fightback with his tenacity on defense. Kyle Dinn and Trevor Hagan each had nine points. The Braves hurt their cause on the free-throw line.
“We’ve got to make free throws,” Mac coach Andy Steele said. “We’re averaging anywhere from 73-75 percent on the season and we go 17 of 30 from the free throw line. We did a great job of getting to it, but if we go 17 of 30, we’re not going to win ballgames, it’s that plain and simple.”