It was the best team in the conference versus the hottest team in the conference – so something had to give.
In the end, the best team won as Battle Creek Central edged Lakeview, 50-44, in this Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East Division boys’ basketball contest at Battle Creek Central High School on Friday.
With the victory, Battle Creek Central (14-2) stays on top in the East Division at 11-1 and Lakeview sees its four-game winning streak ended to fall to 8-9 overall and 7-6 in the division.
“Lakeview is playing really well right now and I knew Steve (Wichmann) was going to have them prepared, ” BCC coach Greg Williams said. “It was a city rivalry game and this was the kind of game you expect — a great atmosphere, two teams going at it and playing very hard and we were fortunate to come out with the win tonight.”
The game was in doubt until the final minute of play and showed how a young Lakeview team has improved since losing by double digits the first time it faced BCC.
“We played very well, we played hard. We played a much tighter game tonight against them. That’s a good team and I think we did a nice job against them,” Lakeview coach Steve Wichmann said. “Give them credit for sticking it out, but we played well enough to win.”
Lakeview was poised for the upset late. The Spartans’ Donnie Ernsberger came up with a steal and a fastbreak layup to pull Lakeview to within 46-44 with 1:12 remaining in the game.
However, BCC knocked down its free throws late, including three by Mohammed Albagami in the final 10 seconds to put away the win as Lakeview would fail to score another point in the final minute.
Albagami led BCC with 16 points, including three 3-pointers. Elijah Jackson added eight points and five rebounds with Trevin Alexander chipping in six points and seven rebounds.
“This was a big game for us, Lakeview and Battle Creek Central is always a big game,” Albagami said. “We wanted to come out and play hard and we did.
“It was really important to come out hard to begin the game in a game like this. Then coach always says the biggest thing is to come out hard in the first three minutes of the second half, and we did that too. I think that was the key.”
BCC started the game with a 10-2 lead as Lakeview was slow to get going.
The Spartans then closed the gap by halftime, but BCC started the third quarter on a 10-2 run to make it 33-19 with 5:55 left in the period, giving Lakeview a tough hole to climb out of. Albagami hit two early 3-pointers in the second half during that run.
“We seemed like we were a little uptight, a little nervous to start with our young guys coming in here for the first time. But then we settled down and played well,” Wichmann said. “We played well enough to win, we just missed a couple shots here and there.”
Lakeview freshman Devon Daniels led the way for the Spartans with 15 points and four rebounds with Ernsberger adding 11 points and seven rebounds and Jake Love chipping in six points and six rebounds.
It was a key victory for the Bearcats as they hold on to their two-game lead in the SMAC. Helping BCC get that two-game lead was Lakeview, which beat second-place Loy Norrix last week. The Bearcats can go a long way toward clinching the league title with a home game against Loy Norrix on Tuesday.
“I thanked Steve for beating Norrix for us – Lakeview is having something to say about who is going to win the conference,” Williams said. “In the league, if we take care of our business, we can win the league so it was important to win this game tonight. Now we have Loy Norrix on Tuesday, so that makes tonight’s win huge.”