By Greg Gielczyk 

MANISTEE — It would have been reasonable to assume that the Hart girls basketball team would have trouble getting started in Saturday afternoon’s makeup game at Manistee. 

After the regularly scheduled game weathered out Jan. 15, the two coaches rescheduled for an afternoon as open dates are growing scarce. 

But, it was a departure from the normal routine. And the Pirates were also playing without All-State standout Addie Hovey, who had a prior commitment downstate for track and field junior day at Michigan and couldn’t make the game. 

The Pirates also had another player who didn’t dress because of an injury. Despite all of that the Pirates ripped off a 6-0 run to start the game, and eventually held off the Mariners for a 61-49 non-conference win. 

Hart’s quick start was perhaps a little deceiving, as the remainder of the game was a little choppy and the Pirates could never quite put the Mariners away. 

“Saturday games are difficult,” Hart coach Travis Rosema said, “and early on, the girls appeared to be out of sync, and a step slower than normal. Kelsey Copenhaver provided a spark early on (scoring four points in the Pirates’ opening run), and she also did a good job defending Manistee’s best athlete (Libby McCarthy). 

“In the second quarter, we got back on track offensively, and several girls got in the scoring column. After some halftime adjustments, we were able to get some easy half court baskets.” 

As the Pirates spun their wheels in the mud for much of the first quarter, the Mariners fought back to trail by just two, 11-9, at the buzzer. 

Hart hit a 7-2 burst to start the second quarter and extended its lead to eight, 18-10, at the 4:20 mark. It included 3-point bombs from Rilyn Porter and Abby Hicks. 

“I think we have a good team this year. I’m super excited to see how far we go,” Hart junior guard Breslyn Porter, who had eight points, said. “We’re putting in a lot of work. We lost a lot of key seniors last year, but I feel like those roles are being filled pretty easily. 

“Our main goal is to get back to state this year and win it. If we put in the work I think it’s a pretty reachable goal.” 

The Pirates extended their lead to 10, 22-12 later in the period after outscoring the Mariners 4-2. Manistee hung around, however, and trailed by nine, 29-20 at the half. 

With their offense finally starting to click, the Pirates pushed their lead to 20 points, 49-29 at the close of the third quarter. Hicks scored eight points and Porter added six. 

Avamae Fett banged home a 3-pointer to finish off a 5-0 run by the Mariners opening the fourth quarter, cutting the Pirates lead to 49-34. 

But the Mariners struggled to catch up to the Pirates, who kept them well out of range in the final minutes although they did outscore the Pirates, 20-12 in the last quarter as they capitalized on some Hart mistakes. 

“We gave them way too many free throws in the first half,” said Manistee coach Kenn Kott. “I really loved our grit at the end of the game. 

“Our kids kept playing hard. They weren’t going to quit. They knew people weren’t in there for us, and we had to do the best we could with what we had, and I thought they did do that.” 

Hicks flirted with a triple double for the Pirates, ending the night with 23 points, 10 steals and eight rebounds. Kelsey Copenhaver also had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds along with two blocks.  Porter finished with 12 points, four assists and four steals. Breslyn Porter also scored eight points and Raya Helenhouse added six points and eight rebounds. 

Jayna Edmondson topped the Mariners scoring with 18, Fett had nine and Lindsey Garner added seven. 

Gardner also had 10 rebounds and Edmondson nine. McCarthy had four assists. 

The Pirates improved to 7-2 on the season with their fourth straight win. Hart travels to Shelby for a West Michigan Conference Rivers Division tilt Tuesday. 

Manistee dropped to 4-5 on the season with its second straight loss. The Mariners resume West Michigan Conference Lakes Division play Tuesday hosting Oakridge.