Portager girls down Pentwater for third straight district crown

Onekama’s Ella Acton (left) drives to the basket past Pentwater’s Terra Cluchey (right) during the Portagers’ 44-36 win in their Class D district championship game Friday night. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

Onekama’s Ella Acton (left) drives to the basket past Pentwater’s Terra Cluchey (right) during the Portagers’ 44-36 win in their Class D district championship game Friday night. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

CUSTER — Make it three in a row for Onekama girls basketball.

It wasn’t perfect, and there were times that was a little nerve wracking, but the Portagers held tough in the second half to pull out a 44-36 win over West Michigan D League co-champion Pentwater at Mason County Eastern Friday night.

The district championship is the third in a row for Onekama. The program went 15 years without winning one before the 2015-16 season.

“I’ve been blessed with some good kids,” Onekama head coach Jim Armstrong said. “I inherited a good program when I got here and we just keep it going. I have good kids and a good support staff. Three districts in row after 15 years without one (is big).”

Both teams led and with big runs had chances to put the game away, but Onekama (12-10) controlled most of the second half after not playing their sharpest in the first.

“We’ve been pushing ourselves and working real hard. We really wanted the three-peat,” Onekama sophomore Colleen McCarthy said.

The Falcons (16-7) had a 20-4 run in the game, but Onekama responded with a 19-1 run directly after that. The Portagers were able to flip a switch once they added a little bit of a full-court pressure to the mix.

“They’re a good team. They are going to make runs. Good teams always make runs. Sure enough they made a run and they beat us up in the second quarter,” Armstrong said.

“Luckily halftime came and we regrouped and started pressing. I used my young kids again.”

Onekama started the game fast with 13 points in the first six minutes to lead 13-5. McCarthy made two three-point shots and early in the game it looked like it was going to turn into a blowout quickly.

The Falcons settled down and started attacking the middle of the Portagers’ 2-3 zone with some dribble-penetration. Meanwhile, Onekama forget how to knock in a layup, helping Pentwater to go on a 20-4 run lasting early into the second half. The Falcons went into the break with a 23-17 lead.

“Our shots were falling in the second quarter. I really think that when our offense was really flowing if we had gotten more easy ones then I think it would have been a different story,” Pentwater coach Joe Gorton said. “Six points at halftime is nothing to sneeze at. It just felt like we left a lot on the table. When things got tight we didn’t really respond.”

After only scoring four points in 11 minutes the Portagers came out in the second half with a full-court man-to-man to get Pentwater running a bit and create some offense with its defense.

On offense Onekama started working the ball down low to Elizabeth and Maggie Domres, who each attacked the basket and racked up some fouls on the Falcons.

“We changed our defense. We played man instead of a zone. It definitely worked better when we pressed a little bit,” McCarthy said.

Ella Acton, who Armstrong only called up from the junior varsity this week, was the catalyst that started the run in the second half. She was able to pick up the Falcons’ guards full court and pester them wherever they would step on the floor.

She was able to create a couple of turnovers, and she finished tied for a team-high with 11 points and 3 rebounds.

“We’re not a great offensive team. My offense is my defense. Ella Acton is Ms. Defense,” Armstrong said.

“When you get 11 points out of Ella Acton, that’s a gift. I don’t expect her to score. Her job is to play defense, but she plays so hard on defense that it creates her own offense. You have to love a kid like that.”

The Onekama defense held Pentwater on a 10-minute field-goal drought in the second half to turn an eight-point deficit into a 10-point lead at 36-26 with 4:34 left in the game.

The Falcons began intentionally fouling Onekama in the closing minutes, but the Portagers were able to close the show by going 8-for-12 at the line in the final two minutes to add another trophy to the program’s growing collection.

To go a long with Acton’s big night, McCarthy finished with 11 points and 9 rebounds, Elizabeth Domres had 8 points and 14 rebounds, and Maggie Domres had 8 points and 10 rebounds.

The Portagers will be back on Tuesday against the top-ranked team in Class D, Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart (22-0). The regional semifinal will take place at 6 p.m. at Big Rapids Crossroads High School.

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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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