Defense carries Jets

POWERS – A strong first quarter and stingy defense down the stretch was enough for the North Central Jets on Friday as they edged Big Bay de Noc 36-27 at home.

The Jets blasted out of the gates, grabbing an early 12-0 lead and holding the Black Bears scoreless until the 1:08 mark of the first quarter.

North Central led 14-2 after the first quarter behind 11 points from Baylee Wells and a 3-pointer from Sierra Carley.

“Baylee really carried us offensively today,” said head coach Tyler Swanson. “She has that potential, she can shoot the lights out of the gym if she’s feeling it and she really carried us in the first quarter and got us going to a pretty good start.”

Along with finding holes in the Black Bears zone, Baylee was also giving Big Bay de Noc fits on the defensive end. The lengthy junior was guarding the Black Bears point guard for the majority of the game and using her height to create turnovers and slow the offense.

“Baylee is long and athletic on defense and when she really commits to playing hard defense she is definitely our best defender,” Swanson said. “She’s fast enough to guard guards and she’s long, lean and tall enough to guard forwards, so anybody that I really need to shut down she’s going to be my go to girl for sure.”

North Central’s offense was clicking in the first quarter but both teams hit a skid in the second as neither team scored for the first four minutes of the quarter. Swanson said his team’s first quarter was the best they played against the zone but they still has a way to go.

“We’re having troubles with zone defense right now and it’s something we’re going to have to work on in practice,” he said. “We showed flashes today, the talent is there, they know what to do, we’ve just got to be able to put it all together.”

The Jets took a 20-6 lead into half-time. Senior Morgan Wells blocked three shots in the first half and five total to pace the North Central defense.

It appeared the Jets (3-2) were going to run away with the game but the Black Bears (0-4) scored the first six points in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 20-12. Big Bay de Noc head coach Ryan Knoph said with the exception of the first quarter this was his team’s best game of the season.

“My girls played really hard, they came out a little flat but they battled through for the next three quarters and that kept them in the game and I’m very proud with how they played,” Knoph said. “It’s probably the best three quarters I’ve seen them play. We’ve just got to come out of the blocks and start out strong and maintain it the rest of the game.”

Morgan Wells ended the Black Bears run after Kennedy Faccio found her for a lay-up with 2:36 left in the third quarter. On the next play down the court Morgan had a block before snagging an offensive rebound and getting a put-back with 2:00 minutes remaining in the third. The four-point run put the Jets up 24-12.

The Black Bears hung around in the fourth quarter but once again it was Morgan Wells snagging a key offensive board to sink their chances. Baylee stepped to the free-throw line and missed the second shot but Morgan grabbed the rebound, scored and was fouled on the shot. She sunk the ensuing free-throw to give North Central a 32-18 lead with just over five minutes left in the game.

“It was huge,” Swanson said. “Morgan’s being a great leader, she’s being our senior captain that she needs to be and when we need a play she seems to be making it for us.”

Big Bay kept the pressure up, cutting the deficit to 34-27 with 40 seconds left but were unable to come up with the shots down the stretch. Faccio sunk two free throws to seal the win for the Jets.

North Central is back in action against Stephenson at home this Tuesday. Big Bay is back in play this Tuesday at Bark River-Harris.

North Central won the jayvee match-up 24-20.