By Bryan Gaskins
Tribune sports editor
Taylor had to chase Eastern nearly throughout regulation in their Mid-Indiana Conference boys basketball game Friday night at Center Court.
When the game went into overtime, the Titans set the pace.
Taylor grabbed a quick six-point advantage in the OT by scoring on its first three possessions while Eastern had a pair of turnovers and a miss from the field. The Titans kept the lead the rest of the way and emerged with a 48-42 win on their homecoming night.
“We were able to carry the momentum into overtime and that was a big stretch, getting the six-point lead in overtime,” Taylor coach Andy Lewman said. “It was a matter of just outlasting Eastern and putting ourselves in the situation where we got the opportunities. I felt like we made some great plays in the fourth quarter on offense and on defense.”
Taylor improved to 3-9 overall and 1-3 in league play while Eastern dropped to 3-8 and 0-4. The Titans beat Eastern 55-49 in last month’s Coca-Cola Old School Sectional, and the teams split a pair of overtime contests last season.
Both squads endured cold shooting nights from the field. Taylor finished 19 of 58 (33 percent) and Eastern was 15 of 47 (32 percent). Eastern’s struggles carried over to the free throw line where it shot 10 of 22 (45 percent).
The Comets had 12 more attempts from the line than the Comets, but managed just a 10-6 advantage in makes.
“That’s unacceptable,” Eastern coach Kyle Bedwell said of the 10-of-22 line. “In a close game, you’re going to lose if you don’t hit those free throws. ... We were 4 of 6 in the overtime, we missed three in the fourth quarter — that’s a lot of missed free throws there at the end of the game.”
Eastern led 7-6 after the opening quarter, during which the teams combined to make just 6 of 26 attempts from the field. The Comets went on to lead 18-13 at halftime and 28-22 after three quarters.
Taylor battled back in the fourth quarter. Calvin Wheeler hit a pair of 3-pointers to help the Titans draw even at 30-all at 3:18, and Taylor took its first lead since 2-0 when post Latrell Mitchell scored in the post off an in-bound play to make it 32-31 at 2:31.
Mitchell made it 34-31 when he banked in a shot off Logan Barnes’ assist at 1:37, but Eastern followed with a 5-0 run aided by a Taylor turnover for a 36-34 lead at :54.9. Braden Gibson’s jumper and free throw put Eastern back in front.
Barnes knotted the score with a driving layup at :38. Eastern played for the final shot, but Josiah Marx missed in the final second.
“I thought he got fouled. Obviously the officials thought differently and that’s just the way it rolls,” Bedwell said. “We’re not going to get that call in here on homecoming.”
Nathan Gotshall scored on a putback to ignite Taylor’s fast start in OT. Challen Hodson scored on a layup off Wheeler’s feed and Nick Hoover scored on a driving layup to make it 42-36 at 2:20.
Eastern closed to within 42-40 at :52.2, but Wheeler and Barnes combined to hit 4 of 4 free throws over the next 30 seconds to make it 46-42. After Eastern missed from the field, Barnes split two more free throws at :23.8 with Taylor grabbing the rebound on the miss to seal it.
Barnes finished with 14 points to lead the Titans. He had seven points in the third quarter, helping keep his squad within striking distance when the Comets looked ready to pull away.
Also for Taylor, Wheeler had 12 points, Mitchell had eight and Hodson had six.
“One of the things I love about this team is we have guys who understand their abilities and they do a good job of picking their spots and they showed that [Friday] with the balance we had scoring wise,” Lewman said.
Taylor finished with a 38-34 rebounding advantage. Homecoming king Gotshall had a game-high 16 rebounds, Mitchell had seven and Cole Schroeder added five.
“We did a great job rebounding wise,” Lewman said. “When you have [Grant] Cole and Marx on the other team and you’re able to outrebound them, that is a great thing because they’re both very good rebounders.”
Lewman loved Schroeder’s effort off the bench. The freshman wing took two charges.
“Wow — for a freshman to step in there and understand, ‘I’m going to be doing some of the dirty work.’ What a time for him to step in and make two huge plays for us,” Lewman said.
“There are a lot of people who love the dunk, but in high school basketball, there is not much more of a momentum swing than someone stepping over on a fast break and [taking a charge].”
Marx led the Comets with 15 points and 15 rebounds, his second big double-double against the Titans this season. He had 19 points and 17 rebounds in December’s game.
Gibson added 10 points for the Comets, but he made just 3 of 17 shots from the field. Cole chipped in seven points and six rebounds