By Justin Bates
For The Herald Bulletin
ALEXANDRIA, Ind. — Four possessions didn’t determine the outcome of the Class 2A, Sectional 39 semifinal between Eastern and Madison-Grant, but they sure had a huge impact on the end result.
Eastern hit four straight 3-pointers to end the first quarter, including one at the buzzer, to take control and eventually defeat Madison-Grant 62-53 on Friday night at The Jungle in Alexandria.
“Two of those the coach didn’t even want them to take,” said Madison-Grant coach Brian Trout of the 3-pointers. “They took them quick and they hit all four of them. We were just a little slow to get out on them.”
That two-minute stretch of the first quarter turned an 8-6 lead into a 20-9 margin at the end of the first quarter. Eastern never led by less than six points the rest of the way, including 31-22 at the half. It was the first time in 34 years the Comets have won two straight sectional games and the first time this season they have won back-to-back games. Eastern is also one win away from their first sectional title since 1956.
“You don’t win games in the first half, but you put yourself in position to win games,” said Eastern coach Mike Springer. “We are still hungry and we came out tonight and put our best foot forward. We are trying to build a program.”
Madison-Grant was led by senior Matt Carey with 21 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals, hitting 5-of-13 field goals and 11-of-11 free throws. Carey scored 20 points in the win on Tuesday.
“He had a great sectional,” Trout said of Carey. “He had 20 on Tuesday and you could tell he was a senior in this sectional. You can’t ask for anymore than that.”
Trevor McNutt was also in double figures with 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and five steals. Tanner Wise added nine points and nine rebounds, and Aaron Dreaden chipped in with five points and seven rebounds.
Madison-Grant shot just 36 percent from the field, including 2-of-16 from 3-point range and 13-of-18 from the charity stripe. Eastern finished at 51 percent shooting, including 6-of-14 from behind the arc and 14-of-19 from the charity stripe.
“We just couldn’t knock down a shot,” said Trout. “We could never close the gap and we couldn’t get a break. That’s just the bounce of the ball.”
Madison-Grant had a 32-30 advantage on the boards, including 15-7 on the offensive glass. The Argylls also had the edge in points in the paint (30-22) and turnovers (13-14) while the Comets had the lead in assists (17-8), points off turnovers (18-11) and second-chance points (13-9).
“We came into the year and had to replace 87 percent of our scoring and 80 percent of our rebounding,” said Trout of the season. “So to do what we did I am pleased with it. It’s never easy to lose that last game, especially for the seniors.”