STURGIS – When Battle Creek Central and Lakeview played in the regular season it was about bragging rights in the city.
When the two city teams played in the districts on Wednesday, it was about survival.
The Bearcats weren’t worried about the rivalry and were all business as Battle Creek Central dispatched Lakeview, 73-42, in this Class A district semifinal boys basketball game at Sturgis.
“Tonight was all about surviving and living to see another day,” Battle Creek Central coach Durant Crum said. “The rivalry goes out the window at this stage of the season. You have to win or you go home and that’s all we were worried about.”
BCC improves to 16-6 on the season as the Bearcats have won 12 of their last 13 games. BCC advances to Friday’s district final at Sturgis to play the winner of Sturgis/Loy Norrix.
Advancing in the districts has been on the mind of Battle Creek Central, regardless of who the Bearcats were going to play, all season. Most of the players on the BCC team have been a part of the program the last two years as the Bearcats lost in the first round of the districts. So advancing to a district final on Friday was all BCC was worried about doing when it faced Lakeview for the third time this season.
“Coach has been preaching that we should want to restore the good history of the Battle Creek Central basketball program,” said Bearcat senior Cyntell Williams. “That has been our goal since day one. If we can win a district championship this year, we feel like we can do that.”
After a slow first quarter, Battle Creek Central picked up the intensity on defense in the second quarter by going to a half-court trapping defense.
Early in the second quarter, the Bearcats showed signs of taking over the game as BCC’s Demetrius Craig hit a 3-pointer to stretch out the lead to 13-5. Then, on the next possession, the Bearcats enjoyed their first double-digit lead after a steal led to a fast break dunk by Juan Warren to make it 15-5 with 7:20 left in the half.
“We talked about coming out strong,” Crum said. “We didn’t want them to play with more energy than us early. We wanted them to know we were here and meant business and we didn’t want to give them any momentum.”
Using pressure defense, BCC would eventually force eight turnovers on the next nine Lakeview possessions to go on a 17-2 run to take a 27-7 lead with 3:26 left in the half. For the Bearcats, it was the third time this season they had beaten Lakeview.
“Coach talked about coming out hard and putting them way early and showing them they can’t play with us,” Williams said.
Williams had 11 points in the second quarter for BCC and finished with a game-high 24 points and four steals.
“Early, I thought we took care of the ball,” said Lakeview coach Steve Wichmann. “But in the second quarter, we kept throwing the ball to the other team and they made us pay for every turnover we had.”
With BCC taking Lakeview out of its offense, the Bearcats outscored the Spartans 26-3 in the second quarter and led 36-8 at halftime.
“Our bread and butter in the second half of the season has been being able to disrupt the flow of our opponent and to use our speed and quickness to our advantage,” Crum said.
Warren added 18 points and seven rebounds for Battle Creek Central with Dontell Hardy adding 12 points as Brett White chipped in eight points and eight rebounds.
Lakeview was led by Anthony Evans, who had 19 points off the bench, all in the second half, on six 3-pointers. DaLeon Graham had eight points and seven rebounds and senior Jared Fisk had nine rebounds in his final game. The Spartans end the season at 6-15.
“This was a tough way to go out. But I was proud of the six seniors we had. It was not the year they envisioned, winning-wise. But they held us together and battled to the end,” Wichmann said.
Bill Broderick can be reached at email@example.com or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter:@NickJBuckley