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COLUMBIA CITY — Last week the Indiana high school basketball schedule took nearly a week off due to heavy amounts of snow fall.
Monday, Columbia City boys’ basketball had no trouble keeping pace with the top teams in the Northeast Hoosier Conference.
Entering the night, the Eagles remained in a two-way tie for second-place with non-other than the opponent coming to town, Norwell.
A game honoring seniors Ben Murphy and Tyler Mosher turned into a sophomore’s game for Columbia City.
With a lead dwindling in the fourth quarter, the Eagles had sophomore Drew Benedict put in 12 of his game-high 25 points from long range. Combined with 13 points from sophomore Derek Hinen, the Eagle duo helped Columbia City beat Norwell 61-51 and take second-place alone in the NHC.
“It was a big game for us,” Columbia City head coach Chris Benedict said. “This win keeps us in the thick of what’s going on. Anything can happen in the conference and we can sneak out a share if we take care of business Thursday.
With a loss to Homestead in January, Columbia City (11-3, 5-1 NHC) is forced to win out to remain in the race for a conference title. The only conference match left for the Eagles is at Carroll Thursday.
One game ahead of City, Homestead (11-4, 5-0 NHC) traveled to New Haven.
The Eagles held control of the lead for most of the night.
Columbia City’s lead got to as big as 10 points in the first half.
Norwell (11-3, 4-2 NHC) found a way to cut the lead down to as much as two points in the second half with the help of its leading scorer Josh Vanmeter — who had 16 points.
The Knights length inside caught up to a smaller Eagles squad heading into the fourth quarter with center Kyle Fillman 10 of his 14 points in the second half.
Not to be out done, Columbia City shot 7-of-14 (50 percent) in the second half — 53 percent, 17-for-32 for the game — and went on a run of its own.
Norwell opened the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run, cutting the lead to 43-41, while the Columbia City offense opened with three consecutive turnovers.
A game-high 25 points by Benedict was topped off with 12 points in the fourth quarter.
After banking in a three-pointer before the first quarter buzzer, Benedict followed knocking down three more in the game including two in the fourth.
Columbia City attempted six shots in the fourth quarter. The Eagles connected on five of those shots with four coming from Benedict.
Drew Benedict, 8-for-17 (47 percent) from the field, scored City’s first field of the fourth quarter with five minutes left.
The Knights continued to knock on the door down 49-45 with four minutes left. Sophomore Daniel Woll rolled off a screen to the basket for two of his 10 points.
“We’re an efficient team if we’re patient and moving the basketball,” coach Benedict noted. “We’ve got shooters that can make it happen for us.
“I thought we did a nice job moving without the basketball.”
Norwell struggled from the field in the second half going 5-for-18 (28 percent) from the field.
Derek Hinen found the hot hand for Columbia City in the first half going 2-for-3 from three-point range and scoring 11 of his 13 points in the first half.