BY MARK SALUKE KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — BUNKER HILL — It was the same result in the same gym, just 20 days later.
Back on Dec. 28, Peru snuck out of Maconaquah with a 58-56 win in the Miami County Holiday Classic championship. Friday night, the Bengal Tigers pulled it off again, a bit more comfortably this time around, knocking off the Braves 64-58 in Mid-Indiana Conference action.
Peru (5-5, 2-0 MIC) was playing its third game since its last trip to Mac, following up a blowout loss at Kokomo (73-39) and a close setback to Oak Hill (63-57) with Friday’s victory. In the same time span, the Braves had not seen any action on the hardwood, but Mac coach Andy Steele wasn’t using that as an excuse.
“Sure, if we came out sluggish in the first quarter, I would say that had a lot to do with it, but I thought we played a very good first quarter,” Steele said. “And for some reason, it looked like almost the exact opposite in the second quarter.”
Mac (3-4, 0-2) looked like it might have Peru against the ropes early as the Tigers couldn’t handle the Braves’ pressure, coughing up four turnovers in the first :40 of the game on the way to nine first-quarter miscues.
The Braves converted the first few turnovers into points but couldn’t keep it up as, despite the miscues, the Tigers trailed by just three points, 13-10, at the start of the second quarter.
Over the next eight minutes, Peru outscored Mac 15-6 to go up 25-19 at the half and led the rest of the way.
“We played too fast early,” Peru coach Jim Metcalfe said. “Once we calmed down a little bit and started looking for open areas … it was one of those in-game adjustments you need to make and the guys responded well.”
Mac, on the other hand, went cold just as the Tigers were heating up, finishing the first half 8 of 28 from the field (29 percent), including a 2-of-10 in the second frame.
“It seems like, since I’ve had this job, our second quarters aren’t that good, and I just can’t figure out why,” Steele said. “It’s like we play our best games when we’re 10 points down. We have no fear in our eyes, we take it to the rim, knock down open shots and play aggressive defense.”
That proved to be just the case Friday as Peru worked its lead to double digits over much of the final 16 minutes, forcing the Braves to play catch-up throughout the second half.
Mac got to within seven on a Wyatt Hughes hoop-and-harm that made it 61-54 with 1:23 showing but Peru was able to pull away at the free-throw line down the stretch, knocking down 16 of 24 attempts over the final eight minutes and keeping Mac at a safe distance.
“We weathered their runs a little better than the last time we played,” Metcalfe said. “We were able to answer the shots they hit and, believe it or not, we took care of the ball better.”
“They handled our pressure a lot better than they did last time, and they were knocking down more shots.”
Peru committed just 13 turnovers over the final three quarters following the rough start. The Tigers placed four scorers in double figures. Sophomore Tyler Murphy led his squad with 18 points. Seth Adelsperger and Eddie Childers each had 14, and Austin Finicle chipped in 10. Adelsperger had a monster night on the glass, pulling down 22 rebounds.
“When we’ve got four or five guys scoring like that, it makes us tough to guard,” Metcalfe said. “It was nice to see that distribution.”
Hughes led Mac with 17 points. K.J. Walton had 12 points and 12 boards.