NOBLESVILLE — It took a Herculean effort against the home team for Kokomo’s boys basketball team to avoid going winless in the Noblesville Holiday Tournament on Saturday night. Kokomo trailed by 16 halfway through the third period and looked on its way to an 0-3 showing in the tournament, but a substitution by coach Brian McCauley lit a spark under the Wildkats.
With 4:41 left in the game, McCauley sent in Jeron Gray, Jazimar Woodard and Brandon Wilson as the Kats trailed 33-17. The three helped ignite a turnaround that saw Kokomo close the game on a 21-3 run in the final 12 minutes and steal a 38-36 win over the host Millers.
“I am so proud of this team. It was a phenomenal win,” McCauley said. “[This] took a lot of character and integrity and it felt like a season-defining win. Our body language was a little down there, but we made about every play we had to make.”
It was Woodard who made an immediate impact, as he connected on a 3-pointer assisted by Mykal Cox just 25 seconds after the substitution. Cox then added a basket of his own before Woodard assisted Jeron Gray on a 3-pointer.
That trimmed Noblesville’s lead to 33-25 in just over two minutes, and the teams traded a pair of free throws that left the Millers up 35-27 going into the final quarter.
Kokomo’s defense keyed the comeback. Kokomo allowed only a single point in the final period. After Justin Peagues scored on a layup and added a free throw for a three-point play that pushed the lead to 16 with 4:41 left in the third, Noblesville did not hit another field goal.
“We changed our defense after we fell behind 8-0 and I really have to credit kids like Erik Bowen and Jordan Matthews,” McCauley said. “[Matthews] didn’t play well offensively, but what he did bring was toughness on the defensive end. Without his ability to defend on the perimeter, we don’t get those stops at the end.”