ELKHART — For most of the first half of Tuesday's game with Elkhart Christian, the Elkhart Memorial boys basketball team knocked away some rust and tried to find an offensive rhythm.
Then the Crimson Chargers kicked things into high gear.
Coach Kyle Sears' team outscored ECA 45-24 in the second half and went on to post a 77-48 season-opening victory over the Eagles.
"I think our pressure started to get to them and wear them down a little bit in the third quarter,'' Sears said. "Once we got the second half under our belts, the guys started to settle down and just play our game and let the game come to them.''
Memorial had its opener pushed back from last Tuesday thanks to the success of the Mishawaka football team. With four new starters, it was both a blessing and a curse for Sears.
"It gave us a chance to do some more teaching, but man it was good to come out and play against someone else,'' Sears noted.''
One of the new starters – senior Brandon Brooks – led the Chargers with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while freshman Damarion Anderson added 13 points and nine boards for Memorial, hitting all five of his shots from the field and going 3-3 from the line. Two of the returning lettermen also played well, as Brackton Miller had 13 and Malachi Emmons chipped in 12.
Elkhart Christian tied the game at 23 with 2:19 to play in the second quarter when Bryce Schrock drilled a 3-pointer from the corner. But the Chargers scored nine straight points, starting with a trey from Miller, before Luke Burns hit a free throw with 0:09 left in the half to end the Eagles' drought, sending the teams to halftime with Memorial up 32-24.
"Man, those last two minutes were tough,'' ECA coach Chad Hibbard said. "We were right there with them, then they made a little run and opened up things up a bit and got some momentum.''
With the lead still at eight with 6:40 to play in the third quarter, the momentum really kicked in for the Chargers.
Starting with an old-fashioned three-point play from Brooks, Memorial outscored the Eagles 11-4 in the next 3:30 to push the lead to 45-30. A pair of free throws by Titus Rodgers at the end of the quarter would make it 57-37 entering the fourth quarter.
"We just couldn't find a way to get a stop in the second half,'' Hibbard said. "We ran a 3-2 zone in the first half and I thought we did a really good job against their half-court offense. But once they were able to push the pace a little and we had to get out of the 3-2, we just couldn't find a defense that could contain them.''
The Eagles were also hurt when leading scorer Luke Burns got into foul trouble in the second half and eventually fouled out in the fourth quarter.
"Man, he only had one in the first half and we were feeling good about that,'' Hibbard said. "But then he picked up a couple quick ones early in the third and we eventually had to sit him for awhile and that did hurt us.''
Burns would lead the Elkhart Christian offense with 16 points, hitting six-of-eight from the field. Matthew Elmerick chipped in nine points for the Eagles, who fall to 0-2.
"We have stressed to the kids that we really need to put 32 minutes together,'' Hibbard said. "We have some talent here and we've shown flashes, we just need to be more consistent.''
"Elkhart Christian is going to win some games this year ... they have good talent,'' Sears said. "We were able to get our transition game going and wore them down some. It was great to get a lot of guys in the game and contributing tonight.''
ELKHART MEMORIAL 77, ELKHART CHRISTIAN 48
MEMORIAL: D'Arjon Lewis 4-12 0-1 9, Brackton Miller 5-11 0-0 13, Titus Rodgers 2-9 3-4 7, Malachi Emmons 5-9 1-2 12 Brandon Brooks 6-8 2-3 14, Collin Baer 1-1 0-0 3, Rodney Gates 0-0 0-0 0, Jacob Marley 1-3 0-0 3, Lashawn Brown 1-2 0-0 3, Damarion Anderson 5-5 3-3 13, Erick Nocentelli 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 30-60 9-13 77.
ECA: Bryce Coursen 2-10 2-2 8, Charlie Maxwell 0-5 0-0 0, Matt Burns 0-1 2-4 2, Luke Burns 6-8 3-4 16, Aaron Buckles 1-1 0-0 2, Matthew Elmerick 3-7 2-2 9, Bryce Schrock 2-6 0-0 5, Jacob Becker 1-1 0-0 2, Josh Bevier 0-0 1-2 1, Noah Hunt 1-1 0-0 2, Seth Jachimiak 0-0 1-2 1. Totals: 16-40 11-17 48.
3-point goals: Memorial (8-26) – Miller 3-8, Emmons 1-2, Baer 1-1, Marley 1-3, Brown 1-2, Lewis 1-6; ECA (5-19) – Coursen 2-6, Elmerick 1-5, Schrock 1-3, L. Burns 1-2. Turnovers: Memorial 14, ECA 15. Rebounds: Memorial (41) – Brooks 11, Anderson 9; ECA (21) – M. Burns 5. Assists: Memorial (17) – Lewis 7; ECA (10) – Maxwell 3. Records: Memorial 1-0, ECA 0-2. JV Score: Memorial 50 (Rodney Gates 12), ECA 39 (Aaron Buckles 23).