CUSTER — One quarter.

That’s how long the Mason County Eastern boys basketball team was able to stay with visiting Mesick before the Bulldogs pulled away for a big 73-37 victory over the Cardinals in the West Michigan D League on Thursday night.

Two individuals engaged in a one-on-one duel in the first quarter when the Cardinals’ Clay Shoup matched the Bulldogs’ Ashtyn Simmerson bucket for bucket.
Shoup finished the first period with 15 points and Simmerson tossed in 12. But it was Simmerson who got the best of Shoup the rest of the way, finishing with 34 points compared to Shoup’s 27 as the Bulldogs went to 4-0 in the league and improved to 5-2 overall.
“We came out and played quite well the first 12 minutes of the ball game,” offered Eastern head coach Mike Fornier. “But Mesick is a very good defensive team, and we struggled to handle their pressure in the second half.
“We are playing a little short-handed due to some injuries, but two of our young guys (Ron Hasenbank and Aaron Drake) gave us a nice lift off the bench with their defensive effort.”
Mesick eventually ended the first quarter with a narrow 20-17 lead, but the Bulldogs really put the defensive clamps down on the Cardinals in the second period and had an 18-5 advantage to boost its lead to 16 points, 38-22 at the half.
The Bulldogs outscored the Cardinals, 35-15 in the second half to cruise to their 25th consecutive victory in league play.
Simmer followed Simmerson in double figures for the Bulldogs with 19 points and O’Neil contributed another 10. Mesick finished the game shooting a sharp 6-of-9 at the free throw line.
No other Cardinal scored in double figures, the Eastern finished 8-of-14 from the line.
The Cardinals, who fell to 1-5 overall and 1-3 in the league, return to the court next Tuesday when they travel to Baldwin in the WMD.