BEREA -- The Madison Southern boys basketball team came into the season opener with a fierce determination to win.
The Eagles were without senior Trent Moberly, who underwent knee surgery on Tuesday and will likely miss his entire senior season.
For the remaining Eagles, it was a chance to earn a victory in his honor.
They did just that.
Southern used a strong first quarter and late second-half push to top Cordia, 66-52.
The win marked the first time in 10 years the Eagles had won their season opener.
The last time the Eagles began their season with a victory was on Dec. 1, 2009 when they defeated cross-county rival Madison Central 64-59.
Madison Southern boys basketball coach Austin Newton said he was proud of how his team came together on Tuesday to start the season off strong.
"It was just this group of seniors who wanted to win their first game. Those older guys were eager to come out strong. In our first two scrimmages this season, we started off the games kind of slow. Tonight, we wanted to to get off to a great start," Newton said after the game.
Southern did get off to a great start on Tuesday against the Lions.
The Eagles raced out on a 10-0 run in the first quarter to take an early lead.
Chad Fugate sparked the run with a three-pointer, while Samuel Lee added a layup and Hunter Buchanan drained a shot from long distance.
Britten Robinson drove to the basket and lifted up a layup amid Cordia's suffocating defenders to cap the run.
After missing two free throws at the line in their first shot at getting on the board, the Lions finally got their offense going when Anthony Hidalgo nailed back-to-back three pointers.
The Eagles ended the first quarter with a eight-point lead, 21-13.
Cordia came roaring back in the second quarter.
The Lions kept the Eagles scoreless for nearly two minutes while they went on a 12-0 run capped by another set of back-to-back three pointers from Hidalgo.
Cordia had a 26-21 lead with four minutes to go till halftime.
Buchanan then came alive for the Eagles to stop the run.
The senior guard knocked down back-to-back three pointers and added a layup to give the Eagles back the lead.
A layup from Jayden Adams and a step-back three-pointer from Nate Turner gave Southern a 34-29 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, it was Fugate's time to shine.
The senior kept the Eagles ahead by scoring all of Southern's points in the third quarter, but the Lion's Hidalgo drained a three pointer to tie it up 43-43 at the end of the third quarter.
"I knew coming into this game, we were going to have to fight," Newton said. "Cordia is a good team and are very athletic. (Cordia senior point guard) Darryen Pringle, in my opinion, is a Division I player. We played against him last year and he's a really good player. I knew when we had the lead they were going to fight back. We couldn't stop their dribble penetration and Pringle and Harris were getting into the lanes and we were picking up fouls. Without Trent, we are a small team and we have to fight for every rebound and we gave up a lot of offensive rebounds and it hurt us in the second and third quarters."
However, in the fourth quarter the Eagles turned up the heat once more.
Lions tied the game at 47-47 with 5:06 left to play, but Southern used a 9-0 run to surge ahead once more to make it 56-58.
Turner got the scoring spurt started after he was fouled and sank two free throws, Lee got a layup and then fellow senior Colby Sebastian caught fire to cap the run and push the Eagles ahead once more.
Sebastian snatched a steal away from Cordia's point guard and raced down the court for a layup.
Seconds later, Sebastian came up with the ball again and this time he converted his breakaway layup into a three-point play after he drew a foul.
"He really stood out to me tonight," Newton said of the senior. "Colby is a senior and has rarely played, but does everything we need him to do in practice and puts the work in and never complains. He got his opportunity tonight to show what he can do and took advantage. He did great. He took care of the ball and really caused some trouble for Pringle."
The Lions came up empty in two trips to the free throw line and then picked up two late technical fouls, which the Eagles used to seal the win.
Hunter Buchanan led the Eagles with 19 points. Chad Fugate finished with 15 points. Nate Turner ended the game just one point shy of a double double with nine points and 11 rebounds. Britten Robinson added six points and Colby Sebastian five points. Jayden Adams had five points, Samuel Lee had four points and Jonah Wooten contributed three points.
"I'm proud of the way they have responded to adversity. We have a bunch of guys who have come together and are being really unselfish. They are playing for Trent and they realize it's going to take us all to win games… Not every game is going to be the same this year -- without Trent, our game plan changes. Our roles are ever-changing and you never know who is going to get in there and be the difference. The team understands that and has embraced it," Newton said.
The Eagles will battle it out with defending state champions Trinity next on Friday.
"We are looking forward to it. We are really excited about hosting them. We think it will be a great game and want everyone to come out for it," Newton said.
It will be a "white-out" and Southern will be handing out free t-shirts to the first attendees. First responders will have free admission and one Madison Southern student will have the chance to win a flat screen television in a giveaway.