By MITZI THOMPSON
CHARLESTOWN — Christian Academy jumped ahead big and early Saturday. Charlestown fought back but could never quite recover, eventually falling 53-44 at home.
The Pirates outscored Christian Academy in the second half (28-26), grabbed more rebounds for the game (35-29) and had the same number of turnovers (17), but the first quarter hole they found themselves in proved to be too much to dig out of.
“We had opportunities at the end, but we had opportunities at the beginning of the game, too,” said Charlestown coach Sean Smith, whose team fought back from a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to make it a 5-point game with just under two minutes remaining. “We should have just done a better job of executing from the very start, so that we wouldn’t have been in that situation late in the game.”
Early on, Charlestown was hesitant to go to the post, which was heavily guarded by Christian Academy’s big inside presence, including 6-foot-10 shot-blocking specialist Connor Chalfant. Instead, the Pirates (2-8) settled for ill-chosen jumpers and perimeter shots that wouldn’t fall.
The Warriors, meanwhile, went on a scoring frenzy and took a 19-6 lead early in the second quarter with help from a couple of early 3-pointers by Aaron Eldridge and a pair of back-to-back fast-break layups and a trey by guard James Martin.
Eldridge finished the night with a game-high 19 points, including four 3s, the last of which gave the Christian Academy (8-3) its biggest lead at 43-26, one minute into the fourth quarter. That bucket was also the Warriors’ final field goal of the game.
From there, Charlestown went on a five-minute long 16-4 run, closing the gap to 47-42, sparked by a Jamal Long jumper and ending with a 3-point conversion by Tanner Wesp and a 3 by Dewey Cardwell.
Christian Academy, which struggled at the free throw line all night, missing more than half its 36 attempts, hit six over the next minute while the Pirates were held scoreless despite having their own opportunities with trips to the foul line and Christian Academy turnovers.
“We did a good job of attacking in the fourth quarter,” Smith said. “We had a sense of urgency. But we need to learn to make the most of every single possession, and we just didn’t do that from the get-go.”
For the Warriors, Saturday’s victory was a psychological one as well after a tough and decisive home loss to Louisville Seneca this past Thursday.
“That was our worst game of the season,” Christian Academy coach Steve Kerberg said. “So we came in tonight looking at this as a bounce-back opportunity. I was really proud of the effort and the attitude the guys showed. We didn’t play a flawless game by any means — 19 missed free throws, 17 turnovers and 13 offensive rebounds we gave up — but we don’t always have control over those things. The one thing we teach our kids is that we always have control over our attitude and effort. Tonight they did a really nice job with that.”
Sophomore Nic Reed turned in a double-double performance for Christian Academy with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Martin finished with 13 points, four steals and four assists. Chalfant collected six rebounds and blocked seven shots.
Wesp had a double-double for Charlestown with 12 points and 10 boards. Saturday’s game also marked the return of junior forward Tristan Chester, who has been after suffering a break in his shooting hand during football season. Chester — one of the Pirates’ sole varsity veterans — scored six and grabbed three rebounds in his first game back.
Charlestown returns to action Tuesday at New Albany. Next up for the Warriors is a Friday night game at defending Class A state champion Borden.
CHRISTIAN ACADEMY 53, CHARLESTOWN 44
Christian Acad. 14 13 11 15—53
Charlestown 6 10 8 20—44
Christian Academy (8-3): Aaron Eldridge 19, James Martin 13, Nic Reed 13, Shelby Rose 6, Connor Chalfant 2.
Charlestown (2-8): Tanner Wesp 12, Jamal Long 8, Dewey Cardwell 7, Tristan Chester 6, Darren Taylor 4, Zach Ramirez 3, Hunter Crace 2, Jacob Pollack 2.
3-point goals: Christian Academy 6 (Eldridge 4, Martin 2); Charlestown 1 (Cardwell).
Rebounds: Christian Academy 29 (Reed 11); Charlestown 35 (Wesp 10).
Turnovers: Christian Academy 17, Charlestown 17.