Big Rapids Crossroads proved no problem for Mason County Eastern in Monday night’s first round game in the MHSAA Division 4 boys basketball district tournament.
Playing in front of a charged up home crowd, the Cardinals settled the issue early, sending the Cougars reeling after a 21-5 start and cruised to an easy 68-17 win.
The Cardinals have won four games in a row.
As expected, it was the Shoup brothers providing the offensive spark for the Cardinals. Eli, the team’s leading scorer, dropped in 12 points in the first quarter and Clay contributed five.
“We are at full speed, just in time for the playoffs,” said Eastern head coach Mark Forner. “Big Rapids has had a tough year. But, they didn’t lose a kid.
“They played hard. I have a tremendous amount of respect for them.”
The Cardinals flexed their shooting prowess from outside in the second quarter, knocking down four 3-point shots … three of those buried by Wyatt Crawford. He finished with 11 points in the period.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals defense gave up just two points in the second period and with their offense notching 25 they flew into the half with a whopping 46-7 bulge.
Big Rapids never seriously threatened to make a game of it.
Eastern outscored the Cougars, 14-4 in the third period for a 60-11 lead going into the fourth quarter. The Cardinals had a 7-6 edge in the final eight minutes.
The Cardinals finished the game with seven 3-point baskets, three of them by Clay Shoup who scored 20 points. Eli Shoup also scored 20 points.
Crawford knocked down four 3-point shots and contributed 18 points. The Cardinals shot 9 of 13 from the free throw line, and 50 percent from the field on 26 of 52 makes, and ripped down 31 rebounds.
Eastern improved to 16-5 and will meet Baldwin, another Western Michigan D League rival, in the district quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at McBain Northern Michigan Christian.
It’s the rubber matchup for the Cardinals, who split a pair of games with the Panthers during the regular season.’