With the kind of start Battle Creek Central and Harper Creek were off to, both teams came into Friday night in first place in the division with hopes of making a run to a title.
And in the end, it was the defending champs of that division that stayed on top as Battle Creek Central defeated Harper Creek, 59-38, in this Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East Division boys’ basketball game on Friday.
The Bearcats improve to 7-1 overall and go to 4-0 in the SMAC East as BCC hopes to repeat as division champs after winning it last year.
“That was huge to get this first win after the break, plus, it’s bigger because it’s a conference game, too,” Battle Creek Central coach Greg Williams said. “We know it’s going to be a challenge to win back-to-back titles, but that’s what we want to do.
“We are the champs so we have the target on us. But we want to embrace that. We know everyone is going to bring their best shot and we know people are going to come hard at us, so we have to match that intensity and we did tonight.”
Both teams started slow as BCC led 12-8 after the first quarter. However, the Bearcats started to pick up the intensity on defense in the second quarter and started to grow its lead at the same time.
A steal and a dunk by Battle Creek Central’s David Templeton helped the Bearcats shoot out to a 5-0 run to start the second period and gave the visitors a 17-8 lead with 6:02 left in the half.
“Give them credit, they played well defensively in the first half,” Harper Creek coach Matt Bowling said. “We knew we’d have to hit some jump shots against their zone, and we didn’t hit enough jump shots. Plus, they forced us into a few turnovers that we don’t normally make.”
By halftime, Battle Creek Central had grabbed a double-digit lead at 23-12 as the Bearcats held the Beavers to 1-for-10 shooting in the second quarter and 3-for-19 shooting in the first half.
“We cover a lot of space with our zone. We were closing out pretty good on their shooters,” Williams said. “They hit some threes on us, but fortunately they were few and far between early.”
Harper Creek played better in the second half and looked like it would make a dent in the lead as the Beavers knocked it down to single digits at 34-26 late in the third quarter, thanks to nine points by James Cadena in the period.
However, a mid-court steal and fast-break layup by BCC’s Javonte’ Dunbar gave the Bearcats a 40-26 lead with 6:30 remaining and they never looked back.
“We dug ourselves that hole and we never were able to get all the way out of it,” Bowling said.
Curtis Trigg led Battle Creek Central with 16 points and eight rebounds with Joseph Bowser adding 10 points and three assists in a balanced scoring effort by the Bearcats as Mohammed Albagami chipped in with eight points.
Cadena led Harper Creek with 11 points with Coleton Swims adding eight points.
Harper Creek suffers its first loss of the year and goes to 4-1 and slips back to 3-1 in the division, but the Beavers want to make sure the loss to BCC doesn’t linger.
“We know that’s a good ball team, they beat us. But we can’t freak out about this, it’s just one loss,” Bowling said. “We just have to continue to go about our business and get better, look at tonight and learn from it and move on.”