Sabers win by committee, bury Cardinals

Manistee Catholic Central’s Nolan Fortier (14) goes up for a jump shot during the Sabers’ 47-26 win over Mason County Eastern Friday night. The win was MCC’s fourth in a row.  (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee Catholic Central’s Nolan Fortier (14) goes up for a jump shot during the Sabers’ 47-26 win over Mason County Eastern Friday night. The win was MCC’s fourth in a row. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Manistee Catholic Central continued to roll in boys basketball, winning its fourth game in a row with a 47-26 rout of winless Mason County Eastern Friday night.

The Sabers (9-3 overall, 5-3 West Michigan D League) started slowly, falling behind the Cardinals 10-8 at the end of the first quarter, but clamped down hard on defense from there, allowing just three MCE field goals total in the rest of the game.

All ten players on the MCC roster played significant minutes in the game, and eight of them got on the scoresheet, led by John Slivka, Kyle Mikolajczak and newcomer Andrea Marconi, who scored eight points each for the Sabers.

MCC head coach Mike Feliczak said that was by design.

“We tried to get everybody in tonight,” he said. “We were hoping to be able to have that luxury tonight, and we did.

“We’re trying to build a little depth. I don’t know that we’ll be able to play 10 all the time, but tonight we could. They come to practice every day, we have faith in them, and tonight was their chance.”

Feliczak did not wait long to start rotating players in. Marconi, Nicholas Hansen and Eric Stickney came off the bench less than three minutes into the contest, a sort of disruption of rhythm which may have contributed to the Sabers’ dodgy first quarter.

Despite the lopsided score, MCC had to fight for just about every basket, and won the game primarily on the defensive end.

“We looked a little out of sync at times, but I’m not going to complain about a 20-point win,” Feliczak said.

Kyle Lee scored 15 of MCE’s 26 points in the game, 10 of those in the first quarter, before fouling out early in the fourth. He scored all of the Cardinals’ points in the first quarter, but managed just a single field goal the rest of the way. Daniel Knizacky scored 9 points for MCE.

“We played pretty good defense,” Feliczak said. “We tried to take those guys away. Kyle Lee had pretty good success against us down there in December, so we tried to hold him down. Brayden (Perkins) did a good job on him, we emphasized help defense and that that’s what we got.”

Marconi got the Sabers going with a 3-pointer that overturned MCE’s brief lead in the opening seconds of the second quarter, which starting a 13-3 run, interrupted by a NBA-distance three by Knizacky, and the Cardinals never really threatened again.

MCC allowed only two field goals in the entire second half, a nifty, twisting drive to the basket by Lee midway through the third quarter and a tough layup by Knizacky just over three minutes into the fourth.

The Sabers actually shot poorly from the floor, converting just 18 of their 61 field-goal attempts, but made up for it by owning the glass, pulling down 35 rebounds as a team. Slivka, Preston Picardat and Austin VanAelst shared team-high honors with 6 boards each in the game.

After a miserable 1-win campaign last season, MCC is all but assured of a winning record this year, and should finish in the top half of the conference standings. Feliczak said that he has ramped up his team’s expectations since the year began.

“We talk about getting better every day, beating better teams, not just being happy to compete against the top half of the league but to expect to win,” he said. “Now I believe they have the confidence that they can beat anybody. They also know what it takes now, it takes (playing well) all four quarters. You still have to keep working hard every day and keep pushing.”

The Sabers will now have a full week off to prepare for its biggest game of the second half of the season, on Friday, Feb. 2, when they host league-leading Bear Lake.

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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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