Portagers routed by Buckley in Northwest opener

Onekama’s Jayden DeWitt (left) drives past Buckley’s Joey Weber (right) during the Portagers’ 68-40 loss Tuesday night. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Onekama’s Jayden DeWitt (left) drives past Buckley’s Joey Weber (right) during the Portagers’ 68-40 loss Tuesday night. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

ONEKAMA — Onekama’s Northwest Conference boys basketball opener was a bit of a wake-up call, as defending Class D state runner-up Buckley came out swinging in a 68-40 Portager loss Tuesday night.

Aric Hopwood and Taylor Bennett each scored 12 points to lead Onekama, which scored more points in the fourth quarter than the other three combined.

Buckley (1-1 overall, 1-0 Northwest Conference) was coming off of a loss in its season opener, and it showed, as their physical, smothering defense held Onekama to just a single field goal in the first quarter.

Portagers head coach Nathan Bradford said that his guys seemed like they were still in football shape at first, but not enough to counteract Buckley’s physicality.

“I knew coming in that (Buckley was) going to play physical, and it took us the whole first half (to adjust),” Bradford said. “The guys kept saying, ‘we’re getting bumped,’ and I told them that they had to play with it and be strong with the basketball.”

Hopwood drove the basket for the first two of his points a minute into the contest, but the Portagers went without a field goal until Jayden DeWitt ended the drought with a 3-pointer with 2:16 left in the second quarter.

Buckley went on a 25-2 run in that span, and took a 32-9 lead into the locker room at halftime.

“In the first half, we couldn’t buy a basket,” Bradford said. “We couldn’t hit free throws, and against a good team like Buckley, they’re going to make you pay.”

It was more of the same after the break, when the Bears opened the second half with a 14-0 run before Bennett drained a three with 2:22 left in the third quarter.

The Portagers started finding their long-range shooting touch, but their frustrations from the free-throw line continued. Onekama missed all four of its attempts from the charity stripe in the third, including the front ends of both 1-and-1 opportunities, and went into the fourth quarter down 48-18.

In all, five different Portagers made 3-point baskets, DeWitt, Hopwood, Bennett, Ben Acton and Jeremiah Torrey.

Onekama showed some of the promise that the Bears knocked out of them in the first three quarters in the final one, in which they actually outscored Buckley 22-20, but the game was already decided, and ended 68-40.

Bradford said that the main difference between the fourth quarter and the other three was that his team answered Buckley’s toughness.

“I gave the guys credit,” Bradford said. “They didn’t quit, and they kept working and kept battling. In the second half, I told them to play more physical. If the refs are letting you, give it right back to them, so the guys didn’t back down.”

Next up for the Portagers is another tough Northwest Conference home game, against Kingsley on Thursday, Dec. 14.

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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