By Greg Gielczyk

MANISTEE — Defense has been a mainstay for the Manistee girls basketball team this season.
However, the offense is a totally different matter as the Chippewas struggle continued in Tuesday night’s game with visiting Montague in the West Michigan Conference Lakes Division.
After forging an early lead, the Chippewas came up empty on too many possessions and the Wildcats capitalized, crashing the defensive boards and making the shots when they needed to in taking a 45-35 victory in the non-conference contest.
The two teams play in different divisions in the West Michigan Conference, with Montague assigned to the small school division, but the Wildcats played like they belong with Manistee.
The Wildcats finished the first quarter holding a narrow 8-7 lead.
The Wildcats stretched that margin out to four, 13-9, in the second quarter before the Chippewas rallied for a 6-0 run that kept the deficit at three, 15-12. Montague clung to a 17-14 edge at the half.
Montague gradually pulled away from Manistee in the third quarter. Kennedy Johnson’s putback hoop sent the Wildcats out to an 11-point lead, 27-16, midway through the period.
The Chippewas shaved the margin to single digits at seven, 28-21, when Allison Kelley converted on a three-point play. Montague made it a nine-point game, 30-21 going into the fourth quarter.
A 7-1 run, highlighted by a 3-point basket from Johnson, extended the Wildcats’ lead to 15 points, 37-22. Manistee’s potential comeback fizzled because of its ongoing issues on offense.
“You can’t wait until the last 3 minutes of the game and try to make everything up that you did wrong in the first three quarters,” said Manistee coach Kenn Kott. “Although we tried. The girls had a lot of fight in them near the end, but it was too much of a gap to make up. I really liked our defense. It’s pretty much all our offense right now.
“It’s pretty obvious we have a problem scoring,” Kott said. “I was trying on the sidelines to keep track of how many times we went a possession with even getting a score. It had to be quite a few.”
Halley Schwartz led all scorers with 11 points for the Wildcats. Ella King contributed nine and Addison Pranger finished with eight.
Libby McCarthy scored eight points to lead Manistee, while Brooke Jankwietz added seven.
Montague (6-3, 4-1 WMC Lakes) won its third straight and will be back in action Friday night hosting Oakridge in another conference game.

The Chippewas (5-5, 2-4 WMC Lakes) travel to Fremont in another conference matchup Friday night.