Powers North Central holds off Waterford Lakes for second straight Class D title
East Lansing – Powers North Central looked well on its way to its second straight Class D state title in the third quarter of Saturday’s game against Waterford Lakes, leading by 18 midway through the third quarter.
But Lakes wouldn’t go quietly, closing the third quarter on a 14-3 run and eventually cut the North Central lead down to 49-45 with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Jets would use a key five point swing, aided by a Morgan Cox basket and rebound off of a missed rebound that led to a Marcus Krachinski 3-pointer that would help hold of Lakes for a 59-48 win, earning North Central its second straight Class D championship.
North Central (28-0) coach Adam Mercier said that Lakes’ run to end the third quarter was one his team is not used to seeing against it, but added that he was pleased with the way the Jets responded in the fourth quarter.
“The end of the third quarter was one of the bigger runs anyone’s had on us in a long time, so I was interested to see how our kids were going to handle it coming out in the fourth quarter,” he said. “Morgan’s basket was huge and we got a steal in there too and we executed some plays. We ran some plays there in the fourth quarter and my kids were probably shocked, we don’t call many plays, but I called a couple and they executed and I couldn’t be prouder.”
North Central opened its largest lead of the game in the third quarter as the Jets opened on a 13-1 run, capped off by a Jason Whitens 3-pointer to start the second half, giving the Jets a 40-22 lead.
But Lakes (22-5) came roaring back as the Lakers would manage to cut the deficit down to just seven, 43-36, heading into the fourth quarter, behind six points from Andrew Kline and four from Devin Senerius.
Lakes coach Paul Robak said that the key to his team’s comeback in the third quarter was the switch to a pressure defense, trying to speed the game up and get his team more possessions when North Central’s shots weren’t falling.
“We knew that we wanted to go to the press (defense) at some point in the game, we didn’t know when,” he said. “They got a little rattled and we thought we could get them to play a little fast. Finally somebody missed a shot, they’re great shooters, but when they didn’t hit some, they weren’t possessing the ball as long.”
Kline scored a game-high 22 points to lead Lakes, while Senerius chipped in with 17 in the loss.
In the fourth quarter, Lakes managed to cut the North Central lead down to just four after baskets from Senerius and Kline, but North Central widened its lead to 54-45 after the quick five points from Cox and Krachinski.
Whitens said that late in the third quarter he felt Lakes worked harder than his team, but added that the Jets were able to bounce back nicely in the fourth quarter.
“They moved the ball really well and they played harder than us, to be honest, we got kind of lazy, they came out and wanted to hit us in the mouth,” he said. “We took their shot and we’ve been taking shots all year, but we just had to take it in and then battle back.”
Whitens finished with a team-high 16 points and seven rebounds, while Bilski finished with 15 points and Troy Ekberg added in 11 points in the win.
Whitens and Bilski would knock down late free throws to seal the win for the Jets.