Brethren pushes past Cards to snap six-game skid

Brethren’s James Connolly (40) shoots over Mason County Eastern’s Jimmy Appledorn during the second half of Saturday’s game. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate)

BRETHREN — Winning close games hasn’t been Brethren’s strength.

Heading into the regular-season finale, the Bobcats had dropped six in a row, including a heartbreaking 64-63 overtime defeat against Pentwater on Thursday.

“We’re in every game,” said Brethren senior Lucas Richardson, “we just give it away.”

On Saturday, the Bobcats took one.

Brethren rallied from behind and closed the game on a 17-3 run to pull out a 63-56 West Michigan D League win against Mason County Eastern for its first victory in three weeks.

“Finally,” said Brethren coach Travis Walker. “For me, it’s not just that we’re finally getting a win, we’re finally getting a win when we had a lead.”

The Bobcats (7-13, 6-10 WMD) had leads in every quarter, but needed one last push to get past the Cardinals (8-12, 6-10 WMD) and build some confidence heading into the postseason, which they will open today in a Class D district quarterfinal against Walkerville at Baldwin.

“We held onto this one,” Walker said. “We did what it took at the end and that’s what we’re looking for going into March.”

Colton Podbilski led the Bobcats with 23 points to go with six rebounds, Victor Acosta scored 12 and James Connolly eight. Richardson had three points and seven assists while Michael Pettinato had five points and six assists as Brethren avenged a 24-point loss last month to the Cardinals.

Jimmy Appledorn led MCE with 23 points while Austin Martin scored 15.

The Bobcats led 16-14 after the first quarter before the Cardinals doubled them up 18-9 in the second for a 32-25 lead at the half.

“We made some poor decisions and should have been up by a little bit more (after the first quarter) and then came out flat in the second,” Walker said. “That was kind of a continuation of the end of the first quarter.”

After the Cardinals pushed their lead to 39-30, the Bobcats ramped up the defensive pressure, forced nine turnovers in the quarter, and mounted an 11-0 run. MCE reclaimed the lead, but Connolly scored inside and Brad Maier had a steal at midcourt and just beat the buzzer with a layup to give Brethren a 45-43 lead.

“I thought Brad Maier’s steal and his bucket at the end of the quarter was huge,” Walker said. “That just sparked some energy.”

The Cardinals went on a 10-0 run for a 53-46 lead early in the fourth, but that was followed by the Bobcats’ 17-3 push to close.

“I think they turned up the intensity and I think we backed off a little bit, we were hesitant,” said MCE coach Steve Hull “They were aggressive and we should have met them with aggressiveness and we just couldn’t go it that time.”

After trailing 55-51, Joe Riggs scored in the paint, Podbilski split a pair of free throws and Richardson hit a shot for the 56-55 advantage and the Bobcats never trailed again. Brethren also held MCE without a field goal for the final 4:45 of the game.

“For that last part of the quarter, they dug in and really got after it,” Walker said. “We had bodies moving around, everyone that was coming in was doing a really good job defensively, which is what we needed. It could have been a little bit better on the offensive end, but when your defense is clicking like that, it will get the job done, it will get you a win.

“They stayed after it, they fought and they wouldn’t let this one go.”

The Brethren JV team completed a perfect season with a 69-45 win against MCE on Saturday. Jeremiah Best and Morgan Ledford scored 23 apiece to lead the Bobcats (20-0).

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