Mustangs wear down BR-H

HARRIS – Victory was in the grasp of the Bark River-Harris Broncos . Then it all slipped away in the fourth quarter, as the Munising Mustangs escaped 49-43 in Central U.P. Conference action Tuesday night.

The Broncos’ boys, playing perhaps their best basketball in years, displayed relentless defense and made smart decisions with the ball. It all added up to a 12-9 lead after the first quarter, a 19-16 lead at halftime and a 35-34 lead after the third quarter against the No. 5 team in Class D.

“I’ve read some articles and some of the U.P. sportswriters think Munising is one of the best teams in the U.P., no matter what class,” said Broncos coach Matt Richer. “Hopefully, I can get my kids to buy in and say ‘hey, we are that close if we work hard in practice and put in a little more time shooting.'”

It was a game that boiled down to a number of things, but there was certainly a flair for the dramatic as well.

The Mustangs held a 43-37 lead with just over four minutes remaining before the Broncos began their run. Getting points off the fast break, Cody VanBrocklin and Kyle Kleiman got a couple quick buckets with a Munising turnover in-between. Another Mustangs’ turnover followed and it looked like the tying basket was in hand, but the shot didn’t fall. From there, Cody Welch fouled out and the Mustangs made four-of-six free throws in the final minute to seal the victory.

“Their kids kept fighting. They made a run at the end of the third quarter, which we kind of answered at the beginning of the fourth,” said Mustangs’ coach Dan Waterman. “We were just trying to run the clock out and kill the game, and their kids kept scrapping and our six-point lead almost vanished.

“It was down to two points and (Bark River-Harris) had the ball. We’re happy as heck to get the win. We feel like we’re escaping actually.”

The Mustangs took control early in the game as Gage Webster hit a triple to break a 2-2 tie. After a Broncos’ turnover, Ben Stasewich dropped a hard bucket in the paint and Munising led 7-2.

“We got the best possible start we could have hoped for,” said Waterman. “We led 7-2, created a couple turnovers with pressure, and then we were absolutely rotten for the rest of the first half.”

The Broncos’ defense confounded Munising during the next 12 minutes and being opportunistic with their few chances, BR-H took the lead.

Kleiman had back-to-back buckets on the fast break and Welch completed a 6-0 run that put the Broncos up 8-7.

“We were just back-screening the back side of their press and they weren’t switching,” said Richer. “(John) Norman did a pretty good job, but he had about three or four more layup attempts I wish he would have completed.

“We did good though. They’re the first team that’s pressed us in a while. We had 18 turnovers, but at the same time, you didn’t notice them like you did before.”

Webster led the Mustangs with 22 points, coming alive in the third quarter. Stasewich added 13 points with 12 rebounds.

For the Broncos, Kleiman scored 14 points with six rebounds and VanBrocklin added 10 points.

“You have to give them credit. They really confused us in the first half,” said Waterman. “We haven’t seen a zone like that in a long time, so it kept us guessing.

“I thought we got better looks in the second half, one because we kind of settled down a little bit, but two, because we executed a lot better.”

The Mustangs (8-2, 4-0 CUP) also held a 35-24 rebounding advantage and some of those second chance opportunities made all the difference.

“Rebounding played a big part in the second half,” Waterman said. “We got a couple extra shots because we got some offensive boards. We were pretty good on the defensive boards too, holding them to just one shot.

“It was ugly, but we’ll take it.”

Bark River-Harris (4-8, 2-6 CUP), which won the jayvee game 48-38, travels to North Dickinson on Friday.