By Greg Gielczyk
MANISTEE — Call it a reprieve, if you will. Mason County Eastern’s girls basketball team got to play one more game Thursday night before putting the uniforms away.
In a makeup game from Feb. 22, the Cardinals visited Manistee Catholic Central and used it to finish the season on a positive note for the first time, holding off the Sabers, 44-37.
The loss prevented the Sabers from securing sole possession of the Western Michigan D League title and left them with a three-way tie with Marion and Mesick. All three teams finished the league season 12-4.
“We fought with them hard at our place and lost in double overtime,” said Eastern head coach Jake Smith. “It was a good, quality ball game.
“The girls were happy to be here, happy to play and happy to get another shot at Catholic. We always play close games with them. It’s been a very good rivalry for a lot of years.”
It was another tight one, too.
After the Sabers busted out to a 5-0 lead early in the first quarter, the Cardinals came back to tie it, 5-5 on a bucket by Hillary Howe.
Janessa Alvesteffer tied it again for the Cardinals, 7-7, when she took an offensive rebound back up to the hoop. But the Sabers led, 9-7 at the horn.
Eastern gained a 10-9 lead at the start of the second quarter on a 3-point shot made by Corinna Hernandez. The Cardinals held the lead for the majority of the second quarter until the Sabers scored at the end to put the Cardinals behind, 14-13 at the half.
The Cardinals had a four-point lead with 4:23 left in the third quarter when Alvesteffer scored on a layup. But the Sabers cut it to one, 25-24 going into the fourth quarter.
Hernandez staked the Cardinals to a seven-point lead, 31-24 at the 6:57 mark of the fourth quarter with an offensive putback.
Manistee Catholic clawed back to shave the margin to just two, 34-32. But the Cardinals extend their lead to six points, 38-32 late in the fourth and from there were able to stave off the Sabers.
Hernandez led the Cardinals in scoring with 12 points, while Fuster contributed 10 and Howe finished with eight.
The Cardinals wound up 11-11 overall and 10-6 for fourth place in the WMD.