CUSTER — Trailing undefeated Baldwin by only five points at halftime, and through most of the third quarter, Mason County Eastern’s boys basketball team rallied for a stirring 56-51 victory at home Thursday night in a Western Michigan D League game.

“It was a total team effort,” Cardinals head coach Mark Forner said. “We only have seven guys, and a couple of guys got in foul trouble and another was hurt.

“Everybody plays, and they have a great team spirit. That was evident. We didn’t go away, kept fighting and pulled away a little bit in the end. It was a really nice win.”

Eastern (4-2 overall, 4-1 WMD) struggled to gain some traction in the first quarter, its offense sputtering as the Panthers (5-1 overall, 5-1 WMD) forged a 13-6 lead.

But the Cardinals ate into the Panthers’ lead in the second quarter, heating up on offensive end to gain an 18-16 edge in the period and close the gap to five points, 29-24 at the half.

The Cardinals benefited from a long range attack that saw them strike for four 3-point shots, two of them coming from sophomore Clay Shoup and one apiece from junior Nate Wing and senior Wyatt Crawford.

Also providing a spark in the second period for the Cardinals was junior Carmelo Lindsey, who dropped in 10 points, including hitting on 8 of 8 free throws.

Baldwin kept the lead for most of the third quarter, but jumped ahead, 42-40 on a 3-point bucket from Crawford. Baldwin knotted the score at 42-42 heading into the fourth quarter. The Cardinals finished the period outscoring the Panthers, 18-13.

The Panthers bolted into a 47-42 lead with a 5-0 run to start the final period, but the Cardinals stormed right back to bring the game into another tie, this one 49-49 on a 3-point bomb by Wing.

Eli Shoup’s driving layup in the lane secured the win for the Cardinals. The Cardinals outscored the Panthers, 14-9 in the fourth quarter.

“We did a diamond-and-one on Carmelo Lindsey because he is clearly their best player and it really slowed him down,” Forner said. “You’re not going to stop a kid that good, but it slowed him down, and it made him work really hard for his points.”

Clay Shoup and Eli Shoup each scored 14 points to lead the Cardinals, while Wing contributed 10, Marcus Hamilton added eight and Crawford chipped in with seven.

Lindsey fired in 20 points to lead all scorers in the game for Baldwin. SJ Hossler finished with 13, and Javon Hawkins added eight.

The Cardinals are back at home again Tuesday, Jan. 18 with another WMD game against Brethren at 6 p.m.