Bear Lake downs Mason County Central on ‘Hejl Mary’

Bear Lake’s Kaiden Hejl takes to the air during the Lakers’ 70-69 overtime win over Mason County Central Tuesday night. Hejl won the game with a half-court shot at the buzzer. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

Bear Lake’s Kaiden Hejl takes to the air during the Lakers’ 70-69 overtime win over Mason County Central Tuesday night. Hejl won the game with a half-court shot at the buzzer. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

BEAR LAKE — After 36 minutes and some last-second heroics from Kaiden Hejl, Bear Lake boys basketball was able escape with an overtime win against Mason County Central.

Hejl made a three pointer from just inside the half-court line at the buzzer to give the Lakers a 70-69 win. He only played about half of the game but his 31 points and 4 steals helped his team improve to 11-2.

“We just kept playing our game. We knew that basketball is a game of waves and we knew that ours was coming up soon,” Hejl said.

Once again early fouls plagued Bear Lake with two starters missing considerable time in the first half after picking up three fouls. Hejl only played seven minutes in the first half and Reagan Merrill missed a lot of time too.

The team only had six fouls in the first half, all coming from those two players.

“Kyle Fink and Noah Sutton came in and held it down for six or so minutes. Credit to those guys for stretching out some minutes for us until we could get Kaiden back in the game,” Waller said.

When the two were on the court the team started the game fast. MCC (9-5) had trouble with the Bear Lake press and only three minutes into the game it was already 8-0.

The Spartans finished the game with 20 turnovers, and almost all of those were forced in the press.

Despite starting with the early lead, the Lakers had their own share of turnovers. They had 23 against the MCC zone, which led to plenty of points going back in the other direction.

After leading 8-0 early they only led 26-24 at the break.

“That team is long and athletic. That was part of the reason that we were turning the ball over. We’re not used to seeing that,” Waller said. “These guys have been getting away with those lob passes against other teams, but we weren’t getting away with it tonight.”

Waller kept Hejl on the bench to start the second half and the teams played a relatively even first couple of minutes, but most of that time the game was played in the half court. The teams were tied at 31 when he checked back into the game and that jolted the Bear Lake offense and its pressure defense again.

The Lakers went on a 10-2 run to close the final 1:07 of the third to go up 43-38 going into the fourth.

Each time that Bear Lake would pull ahead by four or six points, the Spartans would rally behind Tyler Bromley’s shooting. Bromley was able to pick the Lakers apart and keep his team in the game with a series of long jumpers, many of which were contested. He finished with 24 points.

“Tyler was obsolete on the first half on his own accord from missing shots. You hope he’s going to show up like he did, and he did. I thought that made the difference,” MCC coach Tim Genson said.

“Overall, we did some nice stuff in the half court. I was very disappointing with the lack of a ability to handle the pressure at times. Hopefully it’s a good lesson to learn.”

MCC led 59-58 in the final minute of regulation, largely due to the play of Bromley, but Hejl made a three from the elbow to take a 61-59 with 23 seconds left.

Spartan forward Joe Rader was able to sneak towards the basket with 18 seconds left to make a layup and send the game to overtime at 61-61.

Trey Gilbert hit a three and Travis Johnson had a drive to the left that he scored on to put Bear Lake up 66-62 with 2:40 left in the overtime.

Bromley once again came back for the Spartans with a go-ahead three with under 10 seconds left in the game, which appeared to be the game-winner at 69-67.

In a frantic push Hejl took the ball up the right side of the court and from just over the half-court line he tossed up a prayer that went in for the 70-69 win.

To go along with Hejl’s big night, Gilbert had 15 points and 4 assists, Gary McBride had 11 points and 6 rebounds, Zach Belinsky had 6 points and 8 rebounds, and Johnson had 7 points and 6 rebounds.

Bear Lake will be back on Friday against Mason County Eastern (0-12, 0-9). That game will be homecoming for the Lakers.

Mason County Central won the junior varsity game 52-40.


Posted by Brian Fogg

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

Leave a Reply