Zach Gustafson scored 28 points, including an exclamation-point slam dunk at the final buzzer, to lift Portland to a 61-54 win at Lansing Catholic on Friday night.
The victory was an emotional one for the Raiders (3-0, 2-0), who started four seniors and one junior — none of whom had ever beaten the Cougars in a varsity basketball game.
“It’s the first time we’ve won here in my five years here, so this is a really, really big win for us,” Portland coach Dave Pettit said. “It’s really early in the season, but any time you beat Lansing Catholic in anything, it’s a big win.”
In addition to Gustafson’s career night, Portland dominated the glass on both ends, using their size and strength to impose their will in the paint.
“They absolutely crushed us on the boards,” Lansing Catholic coach Darren Zwick said. “We had them for 17 or 18 offensive rebounds, and the game was close for most of the time even with us giving up that many offensive boards.”
Tony Poljan led the Cougars with 16 points, 10in a first half where neither team was able to take more than a four-point lead. The half ended with Portland holding a 21-20 advantage.
Poljan had to come out of the game when he picked up his third foul less than three minutes into the third quarter, and the Raiders took full advantage, opening up a 10-point lead, 51-41 with two minutes left in the fourth.
Poljan returned and hit a big 3-pointer to lead a late Cougar surge, which quickly cut the lead to 54-50 going into the final minute of play. Lansing Catholic would get no closer.
“Both Dave and Tony Poljan got into foul trouble and that really hurt us, especially with the size that Portland has,” Zwick said. “I think we were out of sync just because of that.”
Matthew Fata had 15 points and Joey Jurkovic added 13 for Lansing Catholic. Fata scored 12 of his points in the second half, wreaking havoc by driving to the basket.
Gustafson, who is being recruited by several Division II schools for football, put his mark on the game with two huge blocks on Fata in the final minute. Pettit said Gustafson turned from a football player to a basketball player Friday.
“He bailed us out,” Pettit said. “He loves football, but you just don’t see guys of his size with that speed. His feet are so good that it causes problems for other bigs. We didn’t do a great job of stopping penetration on Fata, and he did a good job of getting into the lane.”
“We’re a bunch of football players on this team, but we have the mindset now that we’re a basketball team,” Gustafson said. “We came together and played good basketball tonight. Our physicality got to them, we started crashing the boards really hard and things started to go our way. It’s the best overall game we’ve played in a while.”
Brodie VanRiper scored nine for Portland.