Lansing Catholic took sole possession of first place in the CAAC White boys basketball standings with an impressive 56-34 win over Portland on Friday night.
The Cougars (8-3 overall, 5-1 CAAC White) entered the night tied with the Raiders for first place but blew the expected close game wide open with a flourish, going on a 15-2 run in the final 2:02 of the second quarter. Portland was never able to recover.
Lansing Catholic coach Darren Zwick said the pieces of his young team are starting to fall into place.
“Our guys came out and played a really solid basketball game, on both sides of the ball,” he said. “Our offense was really sharp tonight, probably the best they’ve played all season. Defensively, a lot of guys had a lot of blood running down their face tonight, but they battled through, got rebounds and really played tough.”
David Poljan led all scorers with 19 points, Dillon Rush had 16 and Matthew Fata added 12 for the Cougars. But Lansing Catholic won the game on the defensive end, holding Portland to just five field goals in the second half.
Raiders coach Dave Pettit said he came into the game hoping his team could run the floor and score points in transition, but they failed to do so.
“Our transition offense was not very good at all tonight, it was almost non-existent,” he said. “It was like we completely forgot everything that we were supposed to do.”
A large part of that was that his team was outrebounded, something that their big, physical frontcourt is not accustomed to.
“They took it to us on the boards tonight, and we’ve usually had our way,” Pettit said. “They dominated the glass on both ends, getting second and third shots that we usually don’t give up.”
Logan Seal and Jared Krausz each scored eight points to lead Portland (8-3, 4-2), which trailed by just three points, 21-18, in the final minutes of the half.
Fata had nine of his 12 points from 3-point land, and the other three after being fouled beyond the arc with 2:02 left in the half. He sank all three free throws, starting the key stretch of the game that ended with a Poljan layup with five seconds on the clock that gave Lansing Catholic a 36-20 lead at the break.
Portland never got back to within single digits the rest of the way, absorbing its second loss of the season to the Cougars. The first was an ugly 27-24 contest in the second game of the season on Dec. 7.
Zwick said his team has come a long way since then.
“We have a lot of youth and inexperience in this team,” Zwick said, “and now these guys are starting to understand what it means to bring it at the varsity level night in and night out to be successful and be competitive.”