By Dave Tomczak

NORTON SHORES – Western Michigan Christian’s boys basketball team relied on its defense as long as it had to on Friday night, then super sophomore Kellen Mitchell got rolling.

Brandon Fles powers through the paint against Ludington’s No. 24 Ben Laman. Photo/Jason Goorman

In the end it resulted in an exciting 50-46 victory for the Warriors over Ludington in a key Lakes 8 Conference game at WMC.

WMC improved to 10-4 overall and 5-2 in conference play and pulled into a tie with Ludington atop the Lakes 8 standings. The Orioles, who defeated WMC by 11 points in December, fell to 9-5 and 5-2.

“Ludington plays hard and our focus was to defend well and rebound well,” said WMC Coach Kurt Gruppen. “Defensively, for a stretch there, we played as good as we have all season.”

Trailing 9-1 early in the contest, the Warriors pulled together a 6-0 run and trailed 9-7 after a very slow first quarter.

Mitchell, who totaled a game-high 23 points, scored seven straight in the second quarter to spark an 11-0 run that gave WMC its first lead, 20-18. 

Mitchell and teammate Brandon Fles scored all 15 points for WMC in the second quarter, and the Warriors led 22-21 at halftime.

“When he gets going he is really hard to stop,” Gruppen said of Mitchell. “He came through for us tonight.”

Both teams struggled to score after the break, but a pair of 3-pointers from Brevin Byrne gave the Warriors a 32-30 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Ludington, which had a 30-28 lead before going cold in the final two minutes of the third quarter, continued to struggle offensively in the fourth.

The Orioles didn’t score until midway through the quarter, but Christian failed to take advantage, and Ludington’s Brad Mesyar hit a 3-pointer cut the Warriors’ lead to 34-33.

But Mitchell helped seal the victory by scoring 10 points down the stretch, including five free throws on six attempts in the final 1:30.

“You have to give Western Michigan Christian credit,” said Ludington Coach Thad Shank. “I thought in that second half they were a little more patient on offense, and we had to settle for the shots they wanted us to take. Sometimes we settled.”

The Warriors finished the game 9-for-13 from the free throw line, while Ludington was 4-for-5.

Fles finished with 10 points for Christian, and Jake Batten had seven rebounds.

Riley Calhoun and Brayden Porter each had 12 points for Ludington, and Peyton LaCombe added nine.