By Bryan Gaskins
Tribune sports editor
Kokomo’s boys basketball program under coach Brian McCauley is enjoying a terrific run of success highlighted by a Class 4A state runner-up finish in 2011. The Wildkats are motoring along this season with a 17-2 record.
The Kats’ future looks promising, too, following a sweep of the annual middle school City-County games at Memorial Gym.
Kokomo Blue teams won a pair of titles Monday night. The Wildkats beat Western 56-37 in the eighth-grade game, and the Wildkats beat Western 36-27 in the seventh-grade game.
Last week, Kokomo Red beat Eastern 37-28 in the sixth-grade game.
The following are looks at Monday night’s games.
Kokomo Blue bolted to a 28-14 halftime lead. Western battled back to within seven (35-28) by the close of the third quarter, but the Wildkats regained control in the final quarter and went on for the 56-37 win.
“This was probably the best we’ve played all season, from post play to guard play, defense to offense,” Kokomo Blue coach Justin Hahn said.
Brevin Beard had a big game for the Kats, finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and three assists.
Beard scored 15 points in the first half, which he capped with a running 3-pointer from 25-plus feet.
“He took the game over in the second quarter,” Hahn said. “He wanted to win this and he was outstanding.”
Ty Sparling and Andrecus Eddington also had strong games for the Kats. Sparling hit three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points and six rebounds. Eddington sealed the win with a personal 8-0 run in the fourth quarter and he finished with 10 points, four rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals.
“Andrecus Eddington, defensively, was amazing,” Hahn said.
Chris Robinson also hit the boards for Kats, finishing with seven rebounds.
Jeff McClung led Western (13-10) with 10 points. Josh Beeler added eight points and Brodee Lipinski had six points, six rebounds and two blocked shots.
Kokomo Blue finished with a 12-6 record.
“It took us until about Christmas to jell,” Hahn said, noting his squad was 5-4 at the break. “It’s an excellent group. They have great attitudes.”
Kokomo Blue bolted to a 9-2 lead deep in the first quarter, but Western battled back to within two (11-9) in the second quarter. The Kats took a 17-13 advantage into halftime, then delivered the knockout blow in the third quarter, outscoring Western 14-5 to build a 31-18 lead. The Kats stretched their lead to 34-18 with 4:07 remaining and went on for the 36-27 win.
“It was a test there,” Kokomo Blue coach Ryan Smalley said. “I’ll give hats off to Western — we played them earlier in the season, beat them by like 21 out at their place. They’re vastly improved. They played well despite missing a key element of their game in Tyler Knepley [who was out with a knee injury]. But our kids played well, they survived, and that is what it’s all about. We’ll take a win any way we can get it.”
Kyle Wade had a huge game for the champs, finishing with 25 points, 17 rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots.
“Kyle is a player,” Smalley said. “He does the small things, he is a leader. He is going to be a good [high school] player here in a couple years.”
The Wade name likely is familiar to Red and Blue fans. His father, Mike, is a former varsity basketball coach and athletic director.
Also for the Kats, Noah Hurlock had seven points and three steals and Nate Hemmerich had seven rebounds.
Cooper O’Neal led Western with six points. Reagan Carter and Myles Griffith scored five apiece and Matt Morgan grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Kats finished with a 16-2 record.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better. Good kids, good parents. They bought into the system,” Smalley said. “We’re just doing what coach McCauley wants us to do — just get them in at the ground level of his program and hopefully see these kids play on Friday and Saturday nights here in about three years.”