Patient Cougars go half-court, win district title

MUNISING – The Superior Central boys were in no particular hurry Friday night.

The reward for their patience was a 66-51 basketball triumph over the Engadine Eagles for their third Class D district title in four years.

The victory sends the Cougars (16-7) to the regional tournament at Negaunee where they’ll face North Central (20-3) Monday at 6 p.m.

In Friday’s contest, the Cougars employed a half-court offense, a variation from their usual uptempo game.

“The half-court game kind of just happened tonight because we weren’t able to get any fast breaks,” said senior center Bryce Richard, who led the Cougars with 20 points. We moved the ball around faster tonight and it worked out.”

The Cougars gained a 34-21 advantage on a layup and free throw by senior guard Trevor Maki with one minute, 44 seconds left before halftime, forcing Engadine (7-12) to use a time-out.

Engadine then scored the last four points of the second quarter, trimming its deficit to 34-25 on a putback by junior forward Tanner Flatt.

The Eagles then opened the third stanza with an 8-2 run, pulling within 36-33 on a lay-in by junior Jake Dishaw with 4:32 left in the period.

“We felt we were still in control of the game,” said Richard. “We just had to get back to what we were doing before. We all kept pretty level heads and were able to work out the problems we were having.”

The Cougars responded with a 12-3 run, gaining a 48-36 advantage on Maki’s jump shot from the lane and free throw with two seconds remaining in the third frame.

“We felt we had a little momentum, then the bumped it (the lead) up to 12 points,” said Engadine coach Elmer Albright. “It’s hard to make up 12 points against that team. They’re so big and athletic. When they needed a bucket, they were able to get it. They were patient. They were able to break us down.”

Foul trouble compounded Engadine’s problems as its leading scorer, senior forward Jeff Bomber, picked up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter and fouled out with 5:42 left in the contest.

“He’s our scorer,” said Albright. “Losing him really hurt us. I thought Jake Dishaw had whale of a game. He did an excellent job on defense. Overall, we played well tonight. I think we gave them a better game than most people thought we would.”

Engadine gained its only lead (7-6) midway through the opening frame on a putback by Flatt. The Cougars then regained the lead (8-7) on Maki’s 19-foot jumper from the left wing.

“I think we had little bit of a hangover from Wednesday (a 41-36 victory over Munising),” said Cougars’ coach Herb Jenkins. “Although, I’m not trying to take anything away from Engadine. Elmer called a good game. We had a lot of energy in Thursday’s practice, and we kind of started okay tonight. But there were times when we were dead on our feet. We were slow thinking at times.”

The contest was tied at 14 with 37 seconds left in the first quarter. Senior forward Matt Verbrigghe, however, put the Cougars up 16-14 on a fast break layup and Maki added a reverse layup and charity toss to make it 19-14 in the final two seconds of that frame.

Maki finished with 19 points and Verbrigghe added 16 for the Cougars, who committed 12 turnovers. The Eagles had 13 miscues.

“Our big guys played well tonight,” said Jenkins. “Matt did a fine job for us. When they got within three, we had to decide if we were not going to lose the game or win the game. We put the ball in Trevor’s hands and it worked for us.”

Bomber finished with 16 points and junior guard Forrest McArthur had 10 for the Eagles.