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Homestead boys riding win streak

– Somehow, someway you just knew Homestead would win. It’s something the Spartans have done in 17 straight NHC games over three seasons.

Down two to Columbia City last Friday, the Spartans won when senior Nick Gamble’s buzzer-beating three-pointer swished through the net in a 59-58 home win over the Eagles in front of a packed gym.

“Players make plays,” Homestead coach Chris Johnson said. “We have been very fortunate to have a kid like Nick Gamble. It’s not just Nick, but he is a big part of that piece of puzzle that you need to be successful.

“I am a firm believer that if you have a top-notch point guard, you will be able to win games. It comes down to kids being able to hit shots. I didn’t design anything with five seconds to go. It was basically we got the ball, and he made a play.”

There’s little doubt about Homestead’s fate these days, especially when playing a conference opponent. Finding a way to win seems to be the Spartans’ mantra.

The streak dates back to Feb. 25, 2010, when Homestead lost 53-43 at home to Norwell. Since then, the three-time conference champion Spartans have actually won 20 straight against league foes because three of them were nonconference tournament games. And all the conference wins have come with Gamble as a starter.

“Every NHC game is big,” said Gamble, a Davenport recruit. “We spend all week preparing for them. We always talk at the beginning of the season about going undefeated in conference and making sure we control our own destiny as far as winning conference. It’s very hard to do that. Some of those games we could have lost. You just have to keep fighting.”

Gamble’s heroics are not contained to just the Columbia City win. There was also the Carroll game in Gamble’s sophomore season two years ago when he hit a three-pointer with 13 seconds left in a 45-44 win over the Chargers.

“I am just a winner,” he said. “I am not afraid to miss at the end of games.”

Gamble, who averages 14.5 points, will tell you that he wasn’t playing his best game against Carroll and had a key turnover against Columbia City.

But in the end, he redeemed himself and the team got the win.

There’s just something special about the Spartans the last three years when it comes to getting wins against NHC teams.

But Homestead can’t just step on the court against an NHC foe and expect an easy win, as evidenced by the Columbia City game. There are league games remaining against DeKalb, New Haven and Norwell that certainly puts the NHC streak in jeopardy.

“We try to get better each and every week, but it adds a little bit of value,” Johnson said of playing against NHC teams.

“There has always been a competitive nature in the NHC of it being a battle each week against very good teams.”

Greg Jones is the high school sports editor for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in the Fort Wayne area since 1998. He can be reached by email gjones@jg.net; phone, 461-8224; or fax 461-8648.

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