Portagers cruise past Cardinals

ONEKAMA — The loudest cheer of the evening on Thursday erupted after Onekama 12th grader John Schoedel won the opening tip in a rare start at the center position. The sound was a sure sign of Senior Night for the Portagers.

The rest of the team responded accordingly.

Onekama (13-7, 9-7 WMD) capped the regular season with a convincing 64-40 West Michigan D League victory over Mason County Eastern for its eighth win in the last 10 games. Jarett Sovereign led the Portagers with 19 points, five rebounds and four steals. He scored every point but one in the first half, in which he knocked down four triples.

Onekama’s Jon Acton (23) shoots over Mason County Eastern’s Jimmy Appledorn during the second half of Thursday’s game. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

Onekama’s Jon Acton (23) shoots over Mason County Eastern’s Jimmy Appledorn during the second half of Thursday’s game. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

Randy Pienta added 13 points, six steals and five assists for Onekama while Caleb Wisniski scored 12 with seven boards and Jon Acton netted 11 with five steals.

“I thought we did a good job of moving the ball around, being unselfish and letting the offense come to us,” Onekama coach Nathan Bradford said of the balanced attack. “The guys really knocked their shots down tonight too, which always helps.”

As part of a senior-laden starting lineup, Schoedel energized the crowd with the opening tip, which seemed to spark the Portagers to a 9-0 run from which they would never look back.

“We wanted to get those guys in,” Bradford said of the veteran group, “and it worked out really well. It was a nice applause from the crowd.”

The Portagers fell in love with the right corner in the final minute of the first, as Sovereign knocked down two straight triples with the defense closing in and Acton drilled a three at the buzzer from the same spot for a 20-8 lead.

Onekama continued to cruise in the second, frustrating the Cardinals with their pesky defense that eventually snatched 20 steals on the night.

“We didn’t want to reach,” Bradford said. “We just needed to get our hands up in the passing lanes and work hard on that end, and we ended up with quite a few steals that way.”

A 15-2 run to open the second quarter gave the Portagers a 35-10 lead, but MCE (5-14, 4-12 WMD) responded with an 8-3 spurt in the final minute to close the gap to 40-19 by the break.

The game looked to be well in hand by halftime, but the Cardinals came out firing in the third. Onekama didn’t score a second-half field goal until 3:39 remaining in the frame, and MCE cut the margin to 47-36 with 59 seconds to go before the fourth. The Cardinals were led by Jimmy Appledorn’s 16 points on the night while Travis McCormick finished with 12.

“The guys were fired up in the locker room, and said they wanted to make sure we got all the seniors back in,” Bradford said. “I told them they’d have to take care of business right away, but I think they put a little too much pressure on themselves to do that.

“We didn’t capitalize on a lot of opportunities, but we did a good job of coming back in the fourth quarter.”

Acton ended the third with a circus shot, while being fouled, that found its way in the net. He completed the three-point play at the foul stripe to give Onekama a 50-36 lead heading into the final frame.

Wisniski single-handedly orchestrated the Portagers’ final surge to put the game away by scoring the first eight points of the quarter en route to his 10 in the frame. The game got a little chippy down the stretch until both teams tapped into their reserves on the bench to finish up the league bout.

With the win, Onekama is clearly playing its best ball of the year heading into next week’s district tournament, where it will face Class D honorable mention Frankfort in Monday’s quarterfinal round.

“We wanted to divide the season into three parts,” said Bradford, who’s in his first year at the helm of the boys program. “The first half, we went through some growing pains, the second half we played well.

“The third season is the district, so hopefully we’ve got some momentum now to take in there and keep it rolling.”

The Onekama junior varsity team finished its season with a 59-43 victory over the Cardinals for a 13-7 record. Austin Sovereign led four Portagers who scored in double figures with 14 points. Jack Coryell, Hunter Morley and Gabe Sidor each netted 10.

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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