Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette East Noble guard Hayden Jones hit a fade-away jumper in the first quarter against New Haven at New Haven on Tuesday.
Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette New Haven center Antwone Washington drives to the basket in the second quarter against East Noble at New Haven on Tuesday.
Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette New Haven guard Donovynn Lewis guards East Noble forward Michael Bender, left, as he drives to the basket in the first quarter against at New Haven on Tuesday.
Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette East Noble guard Ali Ali goes up under the basket in the first quarter against New Haven at New Haven on Tuesday.
Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette New Haven center Antwone Washington, right, and East Noble center Brent Cox fight for a rebound in the second quarter at New Haven on Tuesday.
Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette East Noble forward Drew Denvers, left, scores over New Haven forward Thomas Latham in the first quarter at New Haven on Tuesday.
Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette East Noble guard Kentrel Thomas looks to pass the ball in the first quarter against New Haven at New Haven on Tuesday.
Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette New Haven guard James Gardner drives to the basket over East Noble guard Ali Ali in the first quarter at New Haven on Tuesday.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 12:10 am
East Noble 61, New Haven 55
East Noble wins Northeast Eight title
AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette
NEW HAVEN – It's been 18 years since East Noble has won an outright conference title in boys basketball.
The first championship is checked off as the Knights won 61-55 at New Haven to finish 7-0 in the Northeast Eight and win the conference title.
"It means a lot for us. It's the first outright conference championship in nearly 20 years so it feels good to get it done," junior Ali Ali said. "We've just been around each other a lot these last couple years. Four or five years ago, we only won one game and now we're up here 18-1 so it means a lot because of the hard work we've put in the last couple years."
East Noble shared the Northeast Hoosier Conference title with DeKalb in 2007 but since then, the Knights have finished with two winning seasons, both 12-11 in 2016 under Chad Cripe and 2017 under Ryan Eakins.
"We've got a really special group of guys, it's amazing what can be accomplished when people only care about the end result and they don't care about who gets the credit along the way," Eakins said. "These things don't happen very often for a reason. It's because you don't find a group of people that have the same goals ... I couldn't be more proud of these guys. There's no one I'd rather go into battle with in the state of Indiana."
The Knights broke the game open in the second quarter with 10 straight points to take a 27-15 lead with 1:40 left in the half and took a 29-19 lead into the break.
New Haven (13-6, 4-2 NE8) opened the second half on a 15-5 run to tie the game at 34 with 2:42 left in the third quarter.
Tied at 50 with under five minutes remaining, the Knights used on past experience to forge an 11-5 run and secure the win.
"It's the Westview game (a 54-53 loss on Jan. 2)," Ali said, referencing the Knights' only loss this season. "That's really been in our mind all year because we were up by five and had a few turnovers and lost the game so when they go on big runs, you just have to have a long possession and get a lay-up."
East Noble has two seniors on its roster with Drew Devers and Brandon Robinson. The two combined for just seven points in the win but their leadership is invaluable.
"Our seniors are important to what we do but our underclassmen play like upperclassmen," Eakins said. "We've had a couple games over the last two years where we didn't handle things the right way. I look back to the Westview game as being a huge catalyst to us understanding late-game situations on both ends of the floor.
"The No. 1 key for us tonight was poise. I thought we did a very nice job having mental toughness to weather their runs."
Brent Cox led the Knights over New Haven with 18 points, Ali had 15, Hayden Jones added 11 and Michael Bender 10.
Zach Latham scored 15 for New Haven and James Gardner added 10.