By Mike Mattson
Local Sports Journal
MONTAGUE – Coach Dave Osborne liked the look and feel of his pink dress shirt on Friday night.
“If it keeps getting us wins, I’ll keep wearing it,” Osborne quipped after the host Wildcats edged West Michigan Conference rival Shelby 62-61.
It was “Pink Out Night” at Montague for Breast Cancer Awareness and the Wildcats (10-1, 7-1) used it to avenge their lone loss of the season.
The back-and-forth game went right down to the wire, with Shelby’s Jason Beckman just missing a contested driving layup in the final seconds. Beckman finished with a career-high 29 points, but the Wildcats stayed in the thick of the conference race.
“It was a shot that could have gone in the basket, but we’re fortunate it did not,” said Osborne, whose team fell 73-67 at Shelby in the first meeting. “The second half our seniors took over and did not want to lose.”
Seniors Brandon Moore (21 points) and Chase Casebolt (20 points, 13-of-14 free throws) led the way, especially down the stretch. Moore scored eight points in the fourth quarter including the game winner with about a minute left. Casebolt scored nine points in the final period, including 7-of-8 free throws.
There also were eight lead changes in the fourth quarter.
“We knew Shelby would come out with a lot of energy, but we came out with energy and made more plays to get the win,” said Moore, who hurt the Tigers with his work on the offensive glass in the second half. “I know we can put together a full game. When we do that, we are a tough team to beat.”
Shelby (8-5, 6-3) suffered its second loss of the week after a setback against Mason County Central on Tuesday.
Tigers’ coach Rick Zoulek said his team ran the correct play at game’s end, with Beckman driving off a screen en route to the basket.
“I was happy with our game, but not happy with the outcome,” Zoulek said. “(We) played with more energy and focus tonight. Jason just short-armed (the last shot). But he’ll make that shot five out of six times.”
Beckman played a solid game, hurting the Wildcats with his drives and making five 3-pointers en route to his career-high night.
Andrew Beckman added nine points for the Tigers, who relied on hot shooting en route to a 20-12 lead after the first quarter and 33-26 halftime advantage.
Montague relied on a key 14-0 run to start the third quarter to seize the momentum in the second half.
Montague and Shelby will hook up again in the district opener to decide the season’s bragging rights and chance to move on in the state tournament. Osborne and Zoulek expect another thriller in March.
“It will be another good game,” Osborne said. “We have nine games to fine tune what we have to do and they have nine games to fine tune what they do.”
Montague 62, Shelby 61
SHELBY (9-4, 6-3)
Jason Beckman 9 6-8 29, Spencer Peters 2 1-2 6, Devin Mussell 2 1-2 6, Shane Kajtazi 3 0-0 6, Michael James 1 1-2 3, Andrew Beckman 2 5-7 9, Graham Herin 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 14-21 61.
MONTAGUE (10-1, 7-1)
Chance Lohman 0 1-2 1, Arthur Reed 1 0-0 2, Brandon Moore 9 2-6 21, Brandon Stine 1 0-0 3, Luke VanBoxel 5 0-1 10, Chase Casebolt 3 13-14 20. James Boerema 2 0-2 4. Totals 21 17-27 62.
3-pointers-J. Beckman (5), Peters, Mussell; Stine, Moore, Casebolt. Total fouls-Shelby 20, Montague 18. Fouled out-none. Technicals-none. JV-Shelby 51-30.