CUSTER — It was a defensive slugfest in the first half that Mason County Eastern’s boys basketball team won, and the Cardinals went on to get past Brethren, 44-31 in the Western Michigan D League at home Tuesday night.

Eastern had trouble against the Bobcats’ press in the first half itself, and scored only 18 points in the first 16 minutes. But the Cardinals allowed the Bobcats only six, three in each of the first two periods.

Brethren outscored the Cardinals, 15-14 in the third period, but Eastern still held a 32-18 lead entering the fourth stanza. Both teams scored 12 points over the final eight minutes.

“They are a real strong defensive team, and they came back and made a game of it in the second half,” MCE head coach Mark Forner said. “But, we basically traded baskets most of the way.

“Brethren really did a nice defensive job on Wyatt Crawford, our 3-point shooter. They held him to two points. Fortunately, he had five assists and four steals, so he contributed in other ways.

“Our defense was really good. We rebounded the ball really well. They were bigger than we were. They pressed us full court, and we were able to score in transition. That’s where most of our offense came from, transition points off the press.”

Eli Shoup was the Cardinals’ leading scorer with 23 points, and added eight rebounds and five steals. Nate Wing scored nine points, Clay Shoup added six and Marcus Hamilton four.

The Cardinals bumped their record up to 5-2 overall and 5-1 in the WMD with their second consecutive win. They return to league action Thursday with a road trip to Marion.