Sabers can’t hold lead, fall to MCE in season opener

Manistee Catholic Central’s Jenna Bialik (4) fights to the basket as Mason County Eastern’s Jenny Appledorn in the Sabers’ 39-34 loss in their girls basketball season opener Friday night. Bialik led MCC with 14 points. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

Manistee Catholic Central’s Jenna Bialik (4) fights to the basket as Mason County Eastern’s Jenny Appledorn in the Sabers’ 39-34 loss in their girls basketball season opener Friday night. Bialik led MCC with 14 points. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

CUSTER — Manistee Catholic Central girls basketball battled with Mason County Central all night, but the Sabers came up just short the season opener.

The Sabers fell 39-34 after leading for over half of the game.

“I told them that they are better than what they think, and these three coaches know it,” MCC coach Todd Erickson said. “It’s our job to get it out of them and to make them believe in themselves more. When we get to that point, they’ll make the sky wherever they want to go.”

MCC started the game fast against the Cardinal zone with point guard Jenna Bialik and center Liz Nelson finding space. A pick-six layup by Nelson gave the Sabers a 15-9 lead after the first quarter. Those two scored early in the second quarter to give MCC its biggest lead of the game at 19-9, but the team slowed the pace from there.

MCE switched into a full-court man-to-man pressure, that kept the Sabers out of sync for the end of the first half. The Cardinals slowly worked back into the game with a little bit of help from the Sabers’ free-throw shooting. MCC was 2 for 10 in the first half from the line, and 13 for 30 in the game.

The Sabers led 19-18 at the half.

“We don’t practice much zone. There were some first-game jitters. Once everyone relaxed it wasn’t as much,” MCE coach Bill Cole said.

“We’re not a team that’s going to come down and play a half-court game like everybody else.”The Cardinals kept throwing numbers at MCC in the third quarter, and kept pulling away after a couple of baskets in transition led 30-25 going into the fourth. MCE played 13 players in the game.

The Sabers were usually able to break the full-court pressure, but while hurried they seldom set up any half-court sets.

“I think what killed us the most in the second half was judgement when we wanted to run a set. I don’t think we ran a clean set in the whole second half,” Erickson said.

MCC rallied back into the game with the momentum going the other direction to start the fourth quarter. Nelson drained two free throws, and Sarah Bialik and Nicole Kaminski each had quick baskets to pull their team ahead at 32-30 with five minutes left on the clock.

Despite being in a position to win late, the Sabers weren’t able to close for a win. MCE was able to buckle down on defense and allowed two points in the final five minutes to earn its first West Michigan D League win of the season.

Jenna Bialik led the Sabers with 14 points and 4 rebounds, and Nelson had 8 points, 10 rebounds and 7 steals.

“It’s a stepping stone,” Erickson said. “This was a good stepping stone. From where we were last year, we’ve made some very good strides.”

MCC (0-1, 0-1) will be back in action next Friday at Bear Lake (2-0, 1-0).

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Posted by Brian Fogg

Brian is the sports writer for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3110 or bfogg@pioneergroup.com.

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