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Fouls handcuffs Bingham, GR Catholic Central perseveres, defeats Boyne City, 65-43, to reach semifinals for first time since ’92

By: Tom Markowski, March 20, 2018, 9:44 pm

Big Rapids – Grand Rapids Catholic Central learned a valuable lesson Tuesday.

The Cougars were attempting to reach a state semifinal for the first time since 1992 and their star player, Mr. Basketball finalist Marcus Bingham, Jr., was in foul trouble the entire game and played just 15 minutes.

Bingham’s teammates answered the bell time and again, and Catholic Central defeated Boyne City, 65-43, in a Class B quarterfinal at Big Rapids High School.

Catholic Central (23-2) will play New Haven (26-0), the defending state champion, in a semifinal on Friday at the Breslin Center at 7:30 p.m. New Haven defeated Bridgeport, 78-72, in its quarterfinal.

Darrell Belcher scored 21 points, three off his career high, and had 10 rebounds to pick up the slack. Jacob Polakovich added 14 points, 13 rebounds, and two blocks. Bingham, a 6-10 center who signed with Michigan State, managed 12 points, five rebounds and seven blocks in limited action.

“(Bingham’s) our guy,” Belcher, a 6-3 junior, said. “When he’s out, we just have to play harder. We just have to play our game. No, we really don’t do a lot different. Everyone just has to step up his game.”

Catholic Central led 18-17 after the first quarter as Boyne City (19-7), competing in the Class B tournament for the first time, made four 3-pointers to keep the pressure on. The Ramblers trailed 16-8 and made a furious run in the last 2:44. Trevor King, Mason Gardner, and Dylon Williams all made a 3-pointer in the last three minutes.

But that was essentially it for Boyne City, which made the Class C semifinals in 2015. Catholic Central forced seven turnovers in the second quarter and the Ramblers were 1-of-9 from the field and trailed 34-19 at halftime. Bingham sat the final 2:52 after picking up his second foul and the Cougars outscored the Ramblers 5-0 while he was out.

“I was pleased with their effort (in the first quarter),” Boyne City coach Nick Redman said. “We played with confidence. We got too timid in the second. We knew they’d block shots and dunk on us. I think it was our transition defense that hurt us. They’re long and they did a good job defensively.”

Bingham was in and out of the lineup in the third quarter and went to the bench with his fourth with 3:51 left. Gardner converted a 3-point play as a result of Bingham’s fourth to bring the Ramblers within 46-27 but, again, Catholic Central didn’t take a step back. The Cougars maintained a big lead (52-32) at the end of the quarter and put the game away with a 7-2 run to start the fourth.

“We battled,” Catholic Central coach T.J. Meerman said. “It was a great high school environment.

“I blame myself for Bingham’s fouls. I subbed him in too soon and he quickly got his fourth. Although he didn’t play the minutes, he still played well when he was in there. He knows, and we know, it’s never been about Marcus this season.”

Aside from Bingham and Polakovich, Meerman has a young team. Three underclassmen start and 6-4 sophomore Ethan Lott (two points, four rebounds) played half the game. Bingham’s brother, Mykel, a 6-7 sophomore, also played significant minutes.

Catholic Central had a 41-26 edge in rebounds and junior point guard Austin Braun had 10 of the team’s 19 assists.

Williams had 15 points and Gardner added 14 points and six rebounds for Boyne City.

Against New Haven, it would behoove Bingham to stay out of foul trouble. Playing in the Breslin Center can be overwhelming and the Cougars will need to increase their level of play if they hope to get past New Haven.

“We all know what we can do,” Belcher said. “We won’t settle for nothing.”