Feb. 4—MESICK — Thursday’s West Michigan D League girls basketball game in Mesick started out with Manistee Catholic Central in first place and the host Bulldogs in second.
It ended the same way, just a lot closer as the WMD race became a whole lot more interesting.
Mesick toppled league leader Manistee Catholic Central 31-21 in girls basketball action Thursday, pulling the Bulldogs (11-2, 9-2 West Michigan D) within a game of the first-place Sabers (6-2, 5-1 West Michigan D).
“This time when we played them we all around just worked better as a team,” said Mesick senior Grace Hawk, who had 10 points and seven rebounds. “We played better team ball instead of me ball. We when things started getting hectic, we were able to calm ourselves down, and even the underclassmen really stepped up tonight.”
The Sabers have played at least two league games fewer than other of the WMD’s other eight squads after a two-week school closure because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
Manistee CC played four games in the last eight days, without a single practice in January to prepare for the first Jan. 27. The Sabers looked a little rusty Thursday, but still have a one-game cushion over the Bulldogs.
“Somebody said, ‘You got a tough road come up,'” Manistee CC head coach Todd Erickson said. “I said we won’t have any road if we don’t get out of our own way. It is what it is, so we’ll keep going.”
Manistee Catholic still has two games each against WMD contenders Marion (5-3, 5-2 WMD) and Mason County Eastern (7-6, 7-4 WMD), and hosts winless Bear Lake in a Saturday afternoon contest.
Mesick, which hasn’t won a conference title in girls basketball since a 2002 Northwest Conference championship, won its eighth game in a row. The 10-point setback snaps a five-game win streak for the Sabers.
The Bulldogs, who led 13-11 at halftime, aim to win out with four league contests remaining, but needs help to catch the Sabers atop the West Michigan D League standings. Manistee CC needs to avoid tripping up again with 10 games left, all within the WMD.
Mesick scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter, holding the Sabers scoreless for 5:49 across the late third and early fourth quarters to take a 28-21 lead on Lexy Abraham’s third bucket in that span.
Sophomore Kayla McCoy had to play point guard more than normal with Hawk in a bit of foul trouble, eventually fouling out with just under a minute remaining.
“She did amazing,” Hawk said. “She did great. She ran the offense amazing, and I’m really proud of her. I’m proud of everyone tonight. We played great team ball.”
Both teams struggled from the free-throw line, combining to hit only 13-of-35 from the stripe, or the game would have been a lot more high-scoring.
McCoy led the Bulldogs with 11 points and six steals. Abraham added six points (all in the fourth quarter) and eight boards, while Kelsey Quiggin grabbed eight rebounds and Mattie Akom and Jillian Hillier contributed five rebounds each.
Kaylyn Johnson led Manistee CC with eight points and 11 rebounds, and Leah Stickney and Ashley VanAelst each had three. Stickney also grabbed seven rebounds and Taryn Kempf added five.
“We knew tonight was big game because they beat us earlier in the season 37-30,” Mesick head coach Aaron Osentoski said. “So we knew what they could do and we’ve just been working on the press. It’s just all defense, defense the whole way. That leads to our offense. Shots weren’t falling today, but we made enough.”
The Bulldogs committed 27 turnovers in the first game, reducing that to 21 this time around.
“We’re a better disciplined team right now,” Osentoski said. “Something just clicked after Christmas break.”
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