The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, January 19, 2022 1:00 am

Homestead 74 Columbia City 37

Sprightly Spartans make beating Eagles look easy

VICTORIA JACOBSEN | The Journal Gazette

The Homestead Spartans knew Tuesday's game against Columbia City – a nonconference contest on a school night – wasn't going to draw a raucous crowd like the one on hand when Snider visited Friday. So Homestead was going to need to create its own energy. 

And after an early 3-pointer by Columbia City senior guard Alex Hedrick, the Spartans (11-5, 3-1 SAC) got going. Senior guard Fletcher Loyer and junior forward Grant Leeper combined to score Homestead's first 13 points, and Homestead got back in the win column with a 74-37 win over the Eagles (9-4, 2-1 NE8). 

“It starts with a good warmup, I think,” Loyer said. “I think we come out, we get ourselves going, we get that energy going and just help each other out. Getting each and every guy going, whether they play five minutes a night or 32.”

None of the Spartans needed to play the full 32 minutes Tuesday: Loyer scored 21 of his 23 points in the first half, and the running clock went into effect early in the fourth quarter when Homestead took a 65-30 lead. Senior guard Ifeanyi Ezeakudo entered the game in the first quarter and hit back-to-back shots to stretch Homestead's lead to 18-10. He finished with 10 points, as did sophomore forward Tucker Day. 

“Ezeakudo, Tucker and Max (Schiltz) all do a great job of coming off the bench and bringing in that extra energy,” Loyer said. “Some nights, some guys don't have it going, but just getting that extra off the bench, getting them to come in and play hard is going to help us make a long run.”

After opening the game with two missed shots, Loyer hit his last five attempts of the first quarter, including a 3-pointer taken from a few feet behind the line that sailed over the outstretched arms of Hedrick and went in with 2.9 seconds on the clock. 

That shot gave Homestead a 23-12 lead, and the Eagles did not score for the first three minutes of the second quarter, allowing the Spartans to open the period on an 11-2 run. 

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Rhet Wilson and Mason Baker followed by an Eagles' steal cut the Homestead lead to 34-20 and gave Columbia City a bit of momentum, but a 3-pointer by Loyer followed by a bucket from Andrew Leeper quieted any possibility of a rally, and Homestead went into halftime with a 41-23 lead. 

Columbia City's Seth Mills opened the second half with a 3 off a steal and Jaxon Crawford followed with a turnaround jumper from the top of the key to cut Homestead's lead to 13, but Homestead's Kyron Kaopuiki followed with a 3 of his own that ignited a 24-2 run that continued into the fourth quarter. The Homestead scoring streak only ended after a shot by Ezeakudo gave the Spartans a 35-point lead and initiated the running clock. 

Grant Leeper finished with 11 points, and Kaopuiki had nine. Rhet Wilson scored 10 points for the Eagles, Baker had nine and Crawford eight. 

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