Benton Harbor made the journey through the snow and ice to Battle Creek on Wednesday and took down the hometown Bearcats by a score of 66-49.
The game – which was originally scheduled to be played on Tuesday, but was postponed due to harsh weather conditions – featured several momentum changes in favor of each team. But Battle Creek Central could never hold onto their momentum long enough to catch the Tigers.
“Every time we got something going, it seems like they would kind of hold us off,” Bearcats head coach Durant Crum said. “Even more so than that, they would get something easy because of a lack of rotation on the defense underneath. It seemed like they kept getting easy buckets, where we had to work extremely hard to get our buckets.”
The Bearcats stayed close with the Tigers throughout the first quarter-and-a-half of play, and even led 11-10 late in the first period.
The game was tied up at 17 midway through the second quarter, but Benton Harbor rattled off a 15-5 run heading into halftime, including 3-pointers from Jaton Gunn and Roy Anderson in the final 30-seconds of the half.
The Tigers used that momentum to stretch their lead to 39-24 early in the third.
Battle Creek Central responded with a 9-0 run of their own, sparked by a Demetrius Craig steal and layup. Juan Warren and Julieon Cooper also scored during the run, which was capped off by a 3-pointer from Craig, which brought the Bearcats to within six, 39-33. Craig finished with a team-high 14 points.
Unfortunately, the Tigers quickly regained their double-digit lead by the beginning of the fourth quarter, and held a 49-35 advantage with six-minutes remaining in the contest.
“After we’d have a couple of good things happen for us, we’d go down and give something that they didn’t have to work very hard for,” Crum said.
Once again, the Bearcats securely grabbed a hold of the momentum, scoring eight points in a row, four of which came from senior Cyntell Williams.
With the score back to within six points at 49-43, Benton Harbor turned up the pressure and scored six straight points without ever leaving their end of the floor.
“A lot of times the guys want to celebrate because we make something happen, but the game’s not over ’til the zeros are showing on the clock, and they’ve gotta learn that,” Crum explained. “I think Benton Harbor is a pretty seasoned team. They kept their composure where I thought we lost our composure down the stretch, especially taking the ball out and moving the ball against their pressure late in the game.”
The Tigers’ Milton McGee put the finishing touches on the win with an emphatic two-handed slam in the final minute, and his team walked away with a 66-49 victory.
With the loss, Battle Creek Central falls under .500 to 4-5 on the season (1-1 SMAC East), while Benton Harbor moves to a 7-1 record.
“We had to execute down the stretch,” Crum said. “When it’s time to get the ball inbounds and make solid pass and keep everyone on the same page to attack a press or something, we’ve got to be able to execute the things that we work on in practice.”
For the Bearcats, Julieon Cooper scored 11 points on the night, while Juan Warren had 10.
Benton Harbor’s Curtis Dawson led all scorers with 16, while teammates Jalon Stevens and Gunn had 14 and 13, respectively.
Battle Creek Central will play at home again this Friday against Mattawan.
Travis Tekiele can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 269-966-0677. Follow him on Twitter: @travis_tekiele