By Greg Gielczyk
BALDWIN — Everything went according to plan for the Mason County Eastern boys basketball team against Baldwin Wednesday night’s Division 4 district semifinal in Baldwin.
Trouble is, it only lasted for one quarter. But then the Panthers lit it up and sped away with a 70-33 victory.
Eastern stayed with the Panthers through the first eight minutes, playing tenacious defense and getting enough shots to fall before the roof caved in.
Pulling an upset definitely was on the Cardinals mind in that first quarter. Clay Shoup, the Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer, sank one-of-two free throws and knocked down a 3-pointer which gave Eastern a 4-2 lead.
Baldwin missed several easy shots as well to help the Cardinals cause, but came back to tie the score, 4-4. Baldwin led 13-10 after one quarter.
Eastern was shell shocked when in the second quarter Baldwin suddenly came out firing on all cylinders and exploded for an 11-0 run to build its lead to 24-10.
When the horn sounded for the halftime break, Baldwin had effectively put the Cardinals in its rear view mirror and led 40-14 at half. The lead was 66-23 after three quarters.
“We ran into a buzzsaw,” said Eastern coach Mark Forner. “They got fired up and running, got some easy baskets off some turnovers. They’re very fast and a very talented team. We just were not a match for them. But my guys played hard the whole game, and I’m very proud of them.”
Mason Eastern started the season 1-10 and finished 7-17.
Nate Wing led MCE with 15 points while Shoup finished with 10.
Baldwin had three players reach double figures, as Carmelo Lindsey scored 19, SJ Hossler contributed 17 and David Lee had 11.
The Panthers (21-1) move on to Friday night’s 7 p.m. finals against Pentwater, which defeated Big Rapids Crossroads, 74-21, in the first game Wednesday.