Defense paves way to victory
The Bobcats (5-13 overall, 5-8 JPC) took advantage of 27 turnovers by Roscommon (11-7 overall, 8-5 JPC) coupled with 42% free throw shooting for the Bucks (13-of-31) to pick up the Jack Pine Conference win.
“Great win for our kids and for our program,” Coach L.J. Mead said. “Our kids really wanted this win and it showed on the court. I loved the energy and enthusiasm we played with. I am proud of our seniors for their leadership in this game.”
The first quarter saw Houghton Lake commit seven fouls in the first five minutes of play to just one for Roscommon. The Bucks were not able to take advantage of the free throws that came from the bonus, connecting on just 1-of-6 in the opening quarter. In fact, the Bucks missed their first four attempts and did not get on the scoreboard until 2:47 remained in the opening quarter when sophomore John Miller hit a free throw. The Bucks then outscored the Bobcats, who did not score in the final three minutes of the opening quarter, 4-0 to lead 5-4 after the first quarter.
In the second, Roscommon’s free throw woes continued as the Bucks went to the line a whopping 19 times but only connected on seven shots. The Bobcats took advantage of Roscommon’s misses at the line and went on a 6-0 run to lead 11-5. The squads played evenly for the rest of the half as the Bobcats held a 24- 21 lead at the break.
The sheer number of fouls had Bobcat Coach Mead going to his bench early and often in the first half. In fact, 11 of his 13 cagers saw action in the first half.
Following the break, Roscommon went on a 7-4 run to tie the game at 28- 28 with 5:03 remaining in the third quarter. Both teams had trouble scoring in the rest of the quarter as they went into the final eight minutes with Houghton Lake leading 32-30. For Houghton Lake, their foul troubles took a break in the third quarter as the Bobcats committed just one foul to six by the Bucks in the third.
The final stanza saw Houghton Lake jump to a 38-30 lead and then to a 40-35 lead thanks to perfect free throw shooting in that run by Kyle Bates, Kyle Akin and Jared Dull (6-for-6 combined from the line). In fact, the Bobcats hit 9-of-12 free throws in the fourth quarter.
The Bobcats five-point advantage was quickly cut into by Roscommon as the Bucks went on a 4-0 run to pull within a point, 40-39 with just over two minutes remaining. In the final 1:55, following a free throw from Bates, the Bobcats scored on steals converted to lay-ups by Bates and Kasey Turner to jump ahead 45-41. Following a missed 3-pointer, Akin was fouled and converted 1-of-2 free throws to put the ’Cats up 46-41 with 23.5 seconds left. Roscommon got two points back with 13.3 seconds left when Hunter Mires converted two free throws.
After the Bobcats inbounded the ball, freshman Nathan Shavalia was fouled and hit 1-of-2 free throws to give the Bobcats a 47-43 lead with 11.9 seconds left. Roscommon’s last second scoring try failed as the Bobcats held on to the four-point win.
“We were out-played in every way tonight,” Roscommon Coach M.J. Ewald said. “I credit Houghton Lake for their hustle and their intensity; we couldn’t match it. They were the better team tonight.”
In addition to missing 18 free throws (13-of-31 overall), the Bucks also committed 27 turnovers.
“We won’t beat anyone with numbers like that,” Ewald said. “Hopefully, we’ll respond well in this final week of the season and in preparation for districts.”
Junior Hunter Mires led the Bucks with 12 points and had three rebounds and two steals. Senior Collin Lake had nine points, six assists and six steals while senior Todd Martin had seven points, six rebounds and two steals.
“We played solid defense throughout,” Mead said.
The Bobcats, who finished the night converting 76% of their free throws (16-of-21), were led by freshman Nathan Shavalia with 12 points. Akin and sophomore Tyler Sluck each added eight while Bates had six, Turner had five, Pat Gaitan had four and Jared Dull had two. Turner had eight rebounds followed by Shavalia with seven and Akin with five. Bates picked up eight steals followed by Gaitan with four and Eric Hurst and Dull with two each. Bates also had four assists.
“Kyle Bates played tremendous defense with a game high eight steals,” Mead said. “Kyle and Kasey came up with huge steals that led to breakaway lay-ups under the two minute mark. We saw something in one of their sets and those two guys did a nice job of reading the reversal, anticipated it and jumped the pass. A huge point in the game for us.”
The Bucks finished their regular season with a game at Meridian tonight (Thursday) and host Grayling March 7 in a District match-up.
Houghton Lake played at Clare tonight (Thursday) and begins District play at home against Cheboygan March 7.