COLUMBIA CITY – It was supposed to be Columbia City's party, the first varsity basketball game in the Eagles' new gym. But West Noble wanted in on the history-making, and the Chargers overtook the Eagles in the third quarter to claim the first varsity win in the new facility with a 47-38 victory on Tuesday night.
“That was one of the things that we said when we went in the locker room, you will forever be the first team to ever win a basketball game in the new gym at Columbia City,” West Noble coach Jeff Burns said. “I know it's a small thing, but it's something you can always carry. You get older, you come and watch a game at some point, you can always tell your kids, you were with the first team to ever win a game on that court. So it's a pretty cool thing for them.”
But the Chargers (2-1) had to overcome a shaky first half to do it. Columbia City led by as much as eight points in the second quarter before sophomore Mackensy Mabie, a recent transfer from Columbia City to West Noble, started to heat up for the Chargers. The Eagles (0-2) went into halftime with a narrow 22-19 lead.
“We were continually exploited in the middle of our 1-2-2 press, and so we made an adjustment with that at halftime, or attempted to,” Burns said. “I think we missed it the first time we came out after halftime. But the girls did a nice job of learning and understanding as we went through things. They adjusted back instead of extending so far out, moved it back a little bit. We ended up getting two or three turnovers in a row because of it.”
The Chargers were also more patient in the second half.
A layup by Jazmyn Smith gave the Chargers their first lead, 26-25. Columbia City's Haley Urban answered with a field goal and then a free throw to put the Eagles back up 28-26, but West Noble's Taytlynn Forrer closed out the third quarter with back-to-back buckets to give the Chargers a two-point lead.
Mabie made sure that West Noble kept that momentum going through the fourth quarter. In the opening seconds of the final period, she squared up for a 3-pointer and took the shot as she was being fouled. She hit the floor on her back as the shot went down, and then knocked down the free throw to put her team up 34-28.
“I didn't expect it to go in, not gonna lie,” Mabie said. “But as soon as it went in I was pumped, I was ready to go.”
Columbia City coach Amy Shearer said that with all the ancillary issues – the limited attendance due to COVID-19, and the fact that two of her key players are currently quarantined – Tuesday's home opener didn't feel much like a celebratory unveiling.
“We couldn't have the community come in, so there really wasn't that hometown, special-night feel, because of all the restrictions,” Shearer said. “Things are just so different, and that's how it is everywhere. Kids are guessing, am I quarantined? Are we even going to be able to go to school? It's a difficult time right now.”
West Noble was also missing a key player in senior Lillian Mast, who had to undergo further treatment after suffering a broken nose in practice a few weeks ago. Burns said she hopes to be cleared to play again soon.
Mabie finished with a game-high 24 points, and Forrer scored 10. Urban led the Eagles with 14, and had the honor of scoring both the first point in the new gym (on a free throw) and the first Eagles field goal.