ELKHART — A lineup change a minute or so into a half isn’t typical, but Drew Overmyer was ready, and Elkhart Christian Academy reaped a long-awaited reward.
The ECA junior checked into the game just a couple possessions into the third quarter and proceeded to swish back-to-back 3-pointers as the Eagles turned a 24-all deadlock into a 30-24 spread on their way to a monumental 53-41 boys high school basketball victory over visiting Triton on Thursday, Jan. 9.
“I’m used to coming in whenever,” Overmyer said of whether he was caught by surprise at his fast third-quarter entrance. “Usually, when we’re down, Coach brings me in to get some quick buckets to get the team fired up. It’s pretty much my role.”
ECA defeated perennial Class 1A power Triton for the first time since January 2002, ending an 11-game head-to-head skid.
With the win, the Eagles (6-1) could be poised to make their first-ever appearance in the Associated Press 1A Top 10 next week. They’re one spot from the Top 10 this week, and in beating the Trojans (4-4), they downed the current No. 9 team.
“Our guys are exhausted but excited,” ECA coach Ryan Culp said. “We beat a program with a lot of tradition, well-coached and with some nice players out there once again. It’s been a long time since we’ve beaten them, and our guys knew that.”
Culp quickly subbed in Overmyer in the third period when he saw how much the Triton defense was opting to sag.
It worked. Overmyer’s treys were complemented by Cory Waycaster scoring three inside buckets during the third quarter on his way to picking up 13 of his game-high 16 points in the second half.
“Our guys came out that third quarter aggressive, more intent on trying to establish the interior game,” Culp said, “and when (Triton’s defense) collapsed, Drew Overmyer came in and helped stretch it out.”
Overmyer, who also drained a triple in the first half, finished 3-of-5 from the field, all outside the arc, while fellow sub Steve Weaver contributed sound defense and three more points.
“Coach brings me off the bench for offense and Steve for defense,” Overmyer said. “He’s a great defender, all over everybody, and I just get to come in and shoot.”
“It’s ahead of where we saw it last year,” Culp said of his bench, which went into this season without much experience or much outside expectation. “We knew Drew could come in and be a threat, and Steve is a kid who can come in and disrupt things. We were pleased with what he did over the summer and how he’s bringing it into the season. They’re both adding a lot, making us deeper.”
In a contest full of streaks, the Eagles scored the game’s first eight points on their way to a 17-9 lead through one quarter, and led 22-11 midway through the second period, but Triton erupted for the final 13 points of the first half and a 24-22 advantage at the intermission.
ECA scored the first eight points of the second half on a Waycaster basket and Overmyer’s pair of 3s, and remained ahead the rest of the way.
Nevertheless, the Trojans were as close as 44-41 with 1:42 left before the Eagles netted the game’s final nine points.
That run was highlighted by Kenny Bearss’ forecourt steal that he converted into a three-point play and a 48-41 count with 1:25 remaining.
Bearss finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and two steals for the winners, while Tanner Watson added eight points, six rebounds and a game-high five assists.
Ryan Kupferschmid, who went in needing 18 points for 1,000 in his career, was limited to five by the hawking defense of Triton’s Tanner Shepherd, but still added a game-high nine rebounds.
“There were some very good things that happened out there tonight, and for us to win, they needed to happen,” Culp said. “It wasn’t our best game. We still need to learn to step up and take some charges defensively and our free throw shooting (8-of-21) was uncharacteristic of what we’re doing in practice, but we rebounded pretty well (a 37-27 advantage), and we did a good job after they battled back.”
“(ECA’s) a good team,” said Triton coach Jason Groves, who has guided the Trojans to four 1A state championship appearances in the last six years, including one state title. “They’re hard to defend. They’ve got some really good, skilled players, and it’s the whole team, not just Kupferschmid and Waycaster. They can hurt you in a lot of ways, so they’re hard to defend. They can be physical, they rebound and they can score inside or outside. They’re just an all-around good team.”
Triton suffered its third straight loss, but all have come on the road against teams that are now a combined 17-4 and all included the Trojans leading in the second half.
“We’ve been inconsistent,” Groves said. “I know we can compete, but all of our guys just need to work on consistency, and we need to work through the lapses where we don’t move the ball and don’t play with as much emotion as I’d like.”
Skyler Reichert paced the Trojans with 13 points off the bench. Shepherd added 11 points and seven rebounds.
ELKHART CHRISTIAN 53, TRITON 41
Triton — Tanner Shepherd 4-12 1-2 11, Dillon Meadway 0-0 0-0 0, Joey Corder 1-4 0-0 2, Jordan Anderson 0-1 1-2 1, Darrell lHarrell 1-6 1-1 3, Skyler Reichert 4-14 2-4 13, Mason Yeo 2-4 3-4 7, Austin Sellers 1-2 1-3 4. Totals: 13-43 (.302) 9-18 (.500) 41.
Elkhart Christian — Ryan Kupferschmid 1-5 2-4 5, Cory Waycaster 6-12 2-3 16, Jude Allen 1-1 0-3 2, Tanner Watson 3-5 1-4 8, Kenny Bearss 3-10 2-5 10, Drew Overmyer 3-5 0-0 9, Steve Weaver 1-2 1-2 3, Jon Anderson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-40 (.450) 8-21 (.381) 53.
Scoring By Quarters
Triton 9 15 7 10 — 41
Elkhart Christian 17 5 14 17 — 53
3-point goals: Triton (6-26) — Reichert 3-12, Shepherd 2-5, Sellers 1-1; Elkhart Christian (9-21) — Overmyer 3-5, Waycaster 2-3, Bearss 2-6, Watson 1-3, Kupferschmid 1-4.
Rebounds: Triton (27) — Shepherd 7, Yeo 4; Elkhart Christian (37) — Kupferschmid 9, Allen 7, Bearss 7, Watson 6, Waycaster 5.
Assists: Triton (9) — Shepherd 2, Yeo 2; Elkhart Christian (14) — Watson 5, Waycaster 3.
Steals: Triton (4) — Meadway, Corder, Reichert, Yeo; Elkhart Christian (4) — Bearss 2.
Turnovers: Triton 7, Elkhart Christian 12.
Fouls: Triton 19, Elkhart Christian 18. Fouled out — Corder.
Records: Triton 4-4, Elkhart Christian 6-1.
Next: Lakeland Christian at Elkhart Christian (6 p.m., varsity only), Triton at Glenn, both Saturday, Jan. 11.
JV: Triton 28, Elkhart Christian 23. Top scorers: Triton — Landon Kaufman 12, Blake Johnson 6; Elkhart Christian — Connor Matthes 7, Austin Springer 6. JV records: Triton 4-3, Elkhart Christian 1-4.