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Just 10 seconds into the game, Wayde Sickels dropped in a three-point-er and the Golden Falcons were off to the races. A dominating early run, capped by a three-point play by 6-foot-9 Payton Sparks, had the defending champs in front 16-2, and the Falcons carried that big lead to an 85-55 championship game win over Union City in the 2021 Randolph County Tournament championship. It marked the third straight title for Winchester, which won for the eighth straight time and improved to 7-2 on the season. Union City, which had won three straight entering the contest, slipped back to .500 at 4-4. Sparks led the Falcons once again with big statistical numbers as he totaled 26 points and hauled in 18 rebounds – lofty numbers that have become the norm for the Ball State recruit. And ss usual, he slammed home a couple of thunderous dunks which drew oohs and aahs from the pandemic crowd of only a few hundred. But Winchester’s success thus far has been more than Sparks as the Fal-cons again had a reliable performance by Wayde Sickels, who tossed in 18 to go along with seven assists, with Brooks Burelison netting 10 and Cooper Mc-Coy nine points. Ten different Falcons dented the scoring column. Union City had a team-high 18 points from Zerrin Cantu, who earlier this week became the school’s all-time leader in three-pointers made. Camden LaFuze also had a good scoring night with 12 points. “Winning a midseason tournament – especially the county tournament – is always a confidence boost,” Winchester coach Dustin Baldwin said. “We got off to a great start by executing and getting some big stops defensively. To Union City’s credit, they kept fighting and came back in the second quarter and got it to within six, but our guys fought through that and we were able to get the lead back up to 12 by halftime.” After the Falcons big start, Tom Byrum’s group refused to wilt, getting a basket by Rylan Mote, a big three by Hunter Clay and a pair of free throws by LaFuze to cut the lead to 32-26 late in the second quarter. But the Falcons ended the period on a 6-0 to lead by 12 at halftime. The Falcons kept the momentum to start the third quarter, with Wayde Sick-els scoring in transition and Sparks scor-ing to surge in front 49-31. Winchester continued to pick up the defensive pres-sure and by the end of the frame had a 24-point lead. Winchester’s road in the second half will be difficult, with opponents such as new-pickup Mississinewa, Jay County, Yorktown and Northeastern on the slate. “Our guys are working hard to get better every day, but we’ve got some tough challenges ahead,” Baldwin said. Union City’s second half begins with a road trip to Monroe Central on Friday. Following the game, Union’s Champ Ellis was presented the annual Kellie Stephen Sportsmanship Award, given to the Randolph County senior who has exemplified outstanding sportsmanship in their high school career. Kellie’s wife Cathy Stephen-Miller presented the award.

Semifinals

Union City 90, Union 22

Antoni Velasquez caught fire and scored a career-high 33 points in Thurs-day’s semifinal win over Union. It was the third straight win for the Indians and sent them into Saturday’s champi-onship game. Three other Indians hit for double figures with Cantu netting 14, LaFuze 13, Hunter Reagan 10 and Cowper 10. LaFuze led the Indians with eight re-bounds and Rylan Mote was credited with six assists. The 90 points was the most a Union City boys’ team has scored since a 90-52 win over Union on Dec. 29, 2009. The Indians shot 80 times in the game, mak-ing 47. Union’s Champ Ellis scored 18 of the 22 Rocket points as he continues his assault on Rick Owens career school scoring record. Ellis needs to maintain a 22.5 point average to reach Owens’ ca-reer mark.

Game summary

Winchester 20 38 61 85

Union City 7 26 37 55

FALCONS – W. Sickels 6 1 3-5 18; Burelison 3 0 4-4 10; D. Sickels 3 0-0 6; Sparks 9 1 5-9 26; Patterson 1 0-0 2; McCoy 4 0 1-2 9; Welch 1 0 2-2 4; Beshears 2 0 0-0 4; Moore 0 0 0-0 0; Barker 1 0 0-0 3; Preston 0 1 0-0 3. Totals 29 4 15-22 85. INDIANS – Mote 3 0-1 6; 3 3 3-3 18; Velas-quez 1 0 2-3 5; Reagan 2 0-2 4; Cowper 1 0 1-2 5; 1 1 0-0 5; LaFuze 3 0 6-8 12; Walser 0 0 0-0 0; Conner 0 0 0-0 0; Nieto 0 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 4 13-22 55.

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