Friendship blossoms between ‘Busco seniors, wins follow Jalen Paul was a new addition to the Eagles.

Funny how friendships work.

The first time Churubusco teammates Jalen Paul and Dakota “Cody” Barkley spoke, Paul lied.

“When (Dakota) first heard my dad was getting the job (as Churubusco’s head coach), he messaged me on Instagram and asked me about it,” said Paul, reminiscing about the conversation last July. “I had to play dumb for like two weeks.”

But the truth eventually came out, with Chris Paul taking over the program and senior Jalen joining his father from Canterbury.

It could have been a dicey situation. Barkley was returning as the senior leader and top scorer. Would he feel threatened and apprehensive about a star guard entering the fray?

“Cody made it easy for me when I came over,” Jalen Paul said. “He was the best player last year and the go-to guy, so when he came in and accepted me, everyone else kind of had to.”

The synergy between the two has only grown in the months since, including Tuesday’s 72-51 victory over South Adams in the opening round of the Class 2A Woodlan Sectional. Barkley and Jalen Paul combined to score 51 points as the Eagles won for the seventh time in eight games.

Churubusco (15-8) will take on Woodlan (12-10) at 6 p.m. on Friday.

“It’s taken awhile, but I will give those two all the credit,” said Coach Chris Paul about Barkley and his son. “The moment Jalen showed up they started working together. When we lost our first three games of the year, we were still trying to figure ourselves out. Now, everything we run is either Jalen has it in his hands or Cody does and we play off of it.

“I love it that Jalen trusts Cody and Cody trusts Jalen. When they are going they are hard to handle.”

South Adams (11-12) couldn’t handle the duo for most of Tuesday. Just two weeks after the Starfires knocked off Churubusco, the Eagles returned the favor with increased intensity on defense and on the boards.

“There were definitely a lot of nerves coming into this game,” Barkley said. “We just played hard and played with a lot of energy.”

In a way, Churubusco has had to jell twice this season. Even after the poor start, the Eagles sat at 8-5 in mid-January. That is when a pair of Eagles – Garrett Horn and Brayden Simmons – went down with season-ending injuries.

Suddenly, a team that had to figure itself out with a new point guard needed to figure itself out again.

“I don’t care who you are, if you lose two starters that takes a bit of time,” Chris Paul said. “I’m not making any excuses, but we weren’t playing well for that simple fact.

“Now, we have enough games under our belt that we were able to work some other people in.”

Churubusco is back on track, with a lot of thanks to Barkley and Paul. The duo average a combined 42 points per game, with the aggressive and hot-shooting Paul a perfect wingman to Barkley’s gritty style with a sweet touch from the perimeter. There has been no strife over who carries the offensive load or the leadership banner. Instead, it’s two seniors wanting to make the most of their final high school season. And becoming friends in the process.

“I played with super-talented players at Canterbury, and I don’t think they will take insult with this, but in terms of scoring the basketball Cody is the most talented I’ve ever played with,” Jalen Paul said. “He just makes it easy on me. That’s the only way I can put it.” <br>

<i> Follow Justin Kenny on Twitter at jkenny_ns </i><br>

<center> Prep basketball IHSAA Sectional </center><br>

Tuesday’s scores

CLASS 4A

CARROLL SECTIONAL

North Side 56, DeKalb 49

Carroll 75, East Noble 64

WAYNE SECTIONAL

Muncie Central 40, Jay County 36

Homestead 84, South Side 67

CLASS 3A

GARRETT SECTIONAL

Bishop Dwenger 66, Leo 30

Angola 56, Concordia 28

BELLMONT SECTIONAL

Mississinewa 26, Heritage 24

Columbia City 56, Bellmont 29

CLASS 2A

WESTVIEW SECTIONAL

Bremen 61, Prairie Heights 43

WOODLAN SECTIONAL

Churubusco 72, South Adams 51

BETHANY CHRISTIAN

SECTIONAL

Blackhawk Christian 83, Elkhart Christian 66

Lakewood Park 59, Bethany Christian 51

WES-DEL SECTIONAL

Daleville 60, Anderson Prep 45

Liberty Christian 73, Southern Wells 45

On Page 5S

Tuesday’s sectional roundup; state scores