CUSTER — Capping off a week of Homecoming activities Saturday afternoon, the Mason County Eastern boys basketball team won its fourth straight game.

The Cardinals ripped through visiting Manistee Catholic Central for a whopping 60-26 victory in a Western Michigan D League matchup.

A big Homecoming crowd gave the Cardinals some additional juice in their 14-0 first-quarter run.

Manistee Catholic was playing its first game after a three-week shut down because of COVID-19 health protocols, during which they had not even been able to practice.

“They were obviously struggling coming back from their school-wide shut down,” Eastern head coach Mark Forner said. “I felt bad for Nate (Fortier, the Sabers head coach). He does a good job, and is a really neat guy.

“It was a tough situation for them. They’ll play better down the road. We just caught them on their first game back. They were not at full strength.
“Our kids played well defensively, and we concentrated on lowering our turnovers and improving our decision making in transition.”

But, the Cardinals are battling to stay in the hunt for a WMD title themselves, so they kept up the defensive pressure in the second quarter and outscored the Sabers, 19-5 and rolled into the half with a big 33-5 bulge.

The Sabers began to find their footing in the second half, but that first half lead was just too much for them to overcome. Eastern had a 16-14 third quarter and started the fourth period with a 49-19 lead. The Cardinals had an 11-7 edge in the final eight minutes.

“It’s tough for the kids to stay focused in the second half with that kind of lead, and not play sloppy, and that’s what we really emphasized,” said Forner. “It was a good effort. It was a nice crowd, and they kind of got the kids going, so that was great.”

Eli Shoup had a nice game for the Cardinals with 16 points and eight rebounds. He was also crowned Homecoming King at halftime.
His brother, Clay Shoup, scored 20 points for the Cardinals, including four 3-point shots. Zach Howe contributed seven rebounds and Wyatt Crawford dished out eight assists, grabbed six rebounds and picked off six steals.

Lee Pizana had 11 points to lead the Sabers, who are now 2-5 overall and 1-5 in the league.

The Cardinals improved their record to 7-2 overall and 6-1 in the WMD. Eastern is at home again on Monday, Jan. 31 against Hesperia.