By Justin Haggerty
Entering Tuesday, Muskegon Catholic Central and Western Michigan Christian had combined for just eight wins during the boys basketball season. So when they met at WMC, all bets were off.
Catholic Central needed all four quarters to get back into the game and overtime to eventually claim a 67-63 victory.
“The key was having an overtime game against Ludington a week prior,” MCC head coach Lamar Jordan said. “A lot of the kids that were on the floor then were on the floor tonight.
“I think they got a lot of good experience from that. I tell the kids that whoever makes the most plays in overtime is going to win the game. Tonight we were able to make more plays and we did a good job of knocking down our free throws.”
“They finished well,” WMC head coach Kyle Mastenbrook said. “At the end, we didn’t have the energy to play defensively and they took care of the ball a lot better and made some free throws down the stretch, give them credit there.”
The Warriors, led by senior Jared Varnado who finished with 26 points, jumped out to an early lead and trailed for only 3:11 in the first half, taking a 27-21 lead into the break.
Varnado scored nine points in the first quarter and finished with 15 in the first half while each team committed nine turnovers.
“Jared played real tough, he really got us going tonight. He made a lot of stuff happen offensively,” Mastenbrook said. “I thought Garrett Kraker came out for us tonight and played really well defensively.”
Nate Dugener scored nine of his 12 points on the night in the third quarter to give the Warriors a seemingly commanding lead.
In the final minute of the quarter, WMC scored eight-consecutive points to go up by 10 points before MCC’s Christian Martinez drove the ball down the floor, getting fouled and converting a three-point play the old-fashioned way to cut the lead to seven and take the wind out of the Warrior sails.
“We kind of stood there and enjoyed ourselves for being able to score (eight) points then they came down without any defense, got the bucket and got an and-1,” Mastenbrook said. “We felt really good about those (eight) points but we were able to give them three real easy.
“That could be the play in the game that goes differently. That’s one of the areas we’ve got to be better.”
The Crusaders slowly chipped away at the WMC lead, hitting 8-of-10 free throws in the fourth quarter while holding the Warriors to just 1-of-8 shooting down the stretch.
WMC scored just seven of their 13 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter and shot just 50-percent for the game from the charity stripe.
Catholic took the lead for the first time since the second quarter with nine seconds remaining. Walker Christofferson hit one of two free throws to give the Crusaders a 56-55 lead.
With time running out, DeMonta Bartee drove the lane and drew a foul with four-tenths of a second remaining.
Bartee hit the first free through to tie the game at 56 but missed the second and the game went to overtime.
“I thought about calling a timeout to try to ice him,” Jordan said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Maybe the basketball gods were on our side, it kind of went in and rimmed out, that gave us a chance.”
Overtime came down to free throws. MCC hit seven of their 12 opportunities and WMC missed all five of their free throws resulting in the four-point loss.
The Crusaders were led by Martinez with 21 points. Nate Jones finished with 12 points and Nick Morgenstern in the victory.