New Castle —
Kokomo guard D.J. Balentine poured in 28 points in the Wildkats’ 71-68 loss to Indianapolis North Central in the afternoon semifinal, but battled leg cramps in the consolation contest and finished with 12 points and seven rebounds on 5-of-16 firing from the floor. The Mr. Basketball candidate and Evansville commit reached the 1,000-point mark for his career in the semifinal, becoming the 11th Wildkat boy to do so. Despite the loss, he and his teammates felt fortunate to be a part of the tournament, which featured some of the state’s top prep basketball talent.
“This was a great experience,” he said. “The top teams in the state play in this, and it was great for all the fans to see and for us to be a part of. This was great competition to get us ready for what we’re going to see in the tournament.”
Balentine was named to the All-Tournament team after scoring 40 points in two games Friday.
“I felt pretty good about my performance. It could have been a bit better in the second game, but the muscles in my legs weren’t the best,” he added. “We have a grudge after this tournament. Playing four games in four days, we felt like we could still come out here and compete with the top teams. We leave here feeling like we need to prove a point come March.”
Erik Bowen provided a spark off the bench for Kokomo (7-3) with 12 points, sharing team-high honors with Balentine. Bowen, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, also pulled down six boards in just over 13 minutes. Fellow sophomore Taylor Persons added 10 points and seven rebounds.
No. 1 North Central 71, No. 5 Kokomo 68
The Class 4A No. 5-ranked Kokomo Wildkats fell to 4A No. 1 Indianapolis North Central in the first round, spoiling D.J. Balentine’s 1,000 career-points milestone.