FOUNTAIN CITY, Ind.
Prior to Friday, the Northeastern boys had lost six straight to Centerville.
There won’t be a seventh.
The Knights led wire-to-wire and by as much as 19 points in derailing the Bulldogs 58-48 at Larry Moore gymnasium in an early-season key Tri-Eastern Conference contest.
Northeastern is now 2-1, 2-0, Centerville 2-1, 0-1.
“This game is a big game for us every year,” said Northeastern coach Brent Ross.
“Whichever loses this game is behind the eight ball. Now we have seven weeks to get ready for our next conference game (at Lincoln Jan. 25).”
Centerville never got untracked until it was too late. The Bulldogs scored 28 points the fourth quarter but only 13 the entire first half.
Coach Ryan Chiddister blamed 14 first-half turnovers for much of that.
“We really had a tough time handling the basketball,” he said.
“At one point in the game I think we had more turnovers than we did points. We talked to the team about basketball being a game of possessions and then we give a good team 14 extra possessions in one half, you’re digging yourself a hole.”
Braden Suttle led Centerville with 18 points, 11 in the fourth quarter. Eli Callahan had 12.
Northeastern’s biggest lead was 35-16 with 2:06 left in the third period. Centerville cut it to 11 four times down the stretch but could get no closer than the final 10-point spread.
“All in all I’m pretty excited that we won,” Ross said, “but I didn’t think that we held our composure.”
Sophomore Grant Esposito came off the bench to lead Northeastern, hitting seven of 10 shots and a pair of free throws for 18 points. Andy Scripture added 15.
“He (Esposito) is probably one of the best shooters in the 19 years that I’ve coached,” Ross said.
“We’ve just got to get him open looks. Our team does a great job of getting him the basketball when he’s open. And he’s smart enough to know when to take a good shot.”
Both teams mustered 18 field goals. Northeastern won it with 18 of 29 free throws while the Bulldogs made but 7 of 18.
Chiddester cautioned that Friday night was just one game.
“This was an important game in the conference but we’re still in the hunt,” he said.
“There’s still a lot of games to be played and we’re going to get back to work. We still have the pieces to be a good basketball team.”
Northeastern is at Cowan tonight while Centerville goes to Franklin County.