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Spartans shooter redeems himself

Hits winning 3 after turnover gave Eagles lead

– It was a sold-out, turn-fans-away-at-the-door kind of crowd at Homestead, and the Spartans’ Nick Gamble sent the Homestead fans home happy.

Gamble’s three-pointer at the buzzer lifted the host Spartans to a 59-58 win over Columbia City in an NHC matchup Friday.

“I live for this,” said Gamble, who also hit a late three-pointer/game-winner two years ago against Carroll. “I just wanted to get down the court as fast as I could and get a shot up.”

After Austin Paul hit two free throws with 5 seconds left, Gamble got the ball and got to the left side and sent the ball safely into the net as the buzzer sounded and the Homestead students filled the court in celebration.

“It is good to come out with a victory,” Homestead coach Chris Johnson said. “You hate to have anyone lose in a game like this.

“We were fortunate to play at home with a sellout crowd. It is the first time I have seen that in 14 years here that we turned people away at the doors. We just happen to have the ball at the end, and we were fortunate enough to where Nick hit a three to end it.”

The Spartans led 56-52 before a three-pointer by Paul and a free throw from Derek Hinen tied the score at 56.

Looking for the possible game-winner, Gamble threw the ball away. Paul then hit two free throws, setting up Gamble’s heroics.

Gamble led Homestead (11-3, 3-0 NHC) with 16 points, and Caleb Swanigan added 13 points and 16 rebounds.

“I almost let my teammates down,” Gamble said of his turnover. “I am glad I was able to redeem myself and make the shot.”

Columbia City (12-2, 2-1) got 23 points from Drew Benedict, including seven three-pointers, and Paul added 13 points after dislocating his pinkie in the first quarter.

“It was a tough night, and we kind of fought uphill all game long,” Columbia City coach Chris Benedict said. “We finally caught them and played with them a little bit there. We fought back, and Nick made a great play.

“If that shot goes off the rim, we are talking about a different story. I am proud of our guys. Both teams fought hard, but they had the ball last and made a play.”

The defending NHC champion Spartans and DeKalb now sit atop the conference at 3-0.

The Spartans led 20-11 late in the first before Drew Benedict with a buzzer-beating three to make it 20-14 at the end of one quarter.

Columbia City got down by nine in the first half, but battled back to tie the score at 29 and trail 31-29 at halftime.

Homestead went on an 11-0 run late in the third and early in the fourth to open up a 51-42 advantage.

But Benedict hit three straight threes to tie the score at 51.

“It is unbelievable the type of player that he is,” Johnson said of Benedict. “He shows what type of player he is. He puts a lot of time in on that. It isn’t luck where he is making those shots.”

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