Portagers are district champions

Onekama poses with the trophy it earned by winning its first Class D boys basketball district championship since 2003 with a 47-45 win over Pentwater in the district final Friday night. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Onekama poses with the trophy it earned by winning its first Class D boys basketball district championship since 2003 with a 47-45 win over Pentwater in the district final Friday night. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

ONEKAMA — Onekama won its first boys basketball district championship since 2003, but had to hold off a furious Pentwater comeback attempt to do it, squeaking out a 47-45 win in Friday’s district final.

The Portagers (16-6) led by 13 points with 5:05 left in the fourth quarter, but saw that lead all but slip away down the stretch before making just enough free throws to emerge victorious.

Pentwater gave everything Onekama could handle for three quarters, but the Portager defense all but shut out the Falcons in the third and built the lead that they would ride to the district championship.

“I knew coming in that it was gong to be a battle,” Onekama head coach Nathan Bradford said. “They always play hard, hustle after loose balls, crash the boards hard and I give them a lot of credit.

“My guys tensed up in the big moments,” Bradford said. “We hit a few free throws and I thought we had it, but Pentwater kept coming at us and coming at us.”

Jacob Mauntler led all scorers with 16 points and pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds and Jayden DeWitt added 8 points and 4 assists for the Portagers, who advance to a Class D regional semifinal against Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart in Cadillac on Monday.

The game was the last home game for Mauntler and the other seniors, DeWitt, Jeremiah Torrey and Nick Falk

“This is huge,” Mauntler said. “It means a lot, I give a lot of credit to the older guys for pushing us. I owe it to them.”

DeWitt opened the contest with a 3-pointer 27 seconds into the contest, but Onekama would convert only one other for the rest of the half. The Portagers finished with just 3 threes in 18 attempts in the game.

Pentwater (14-8), on the other hand,  had the better of play in the first half, taking a 23-21 lead into the locker room that should have been more but for nine missed free throws in the first two quarters.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything better, except a better free-throw percentage,” Pentwater head coach Ashley Wojtas said. “Ultimately, if there was anything I could change, that’s what I would change.”

Onekama locked down on defense after the break, not allowing the Falcons a single bucket in the third quarter.

 “I told the kids that’s what was going to win the game, the defense,” Bradford said. “And the defense stepped up in that third quarter to get us that cushion.”

The Falcons did record two points, however, when Mauntler inadvertently tipped a rebound into his own basket with 23 seconds left in the quarter, but Onekama took a 36-25 advantage into the fourth and looked as though they would run away with it.

They did not.

In what could have been the turning point of the contest, Falk ended his home varsity career a bit prematurely, picking up his fourth and fifth fouls in quick succession, fouling out of the game with 5:42 left.

Falk scored just 2 points in the game, but his absence was keenly felt on the glass at both ends.

“They (Pentwater) crash the boards hard,” Bradford said. “They have three or four guys who can rebound, and we weren’t getting a body on guys. I give them credit, they were in there banging and getting to loose balls. That’s one thing we have to work on going into Monday.”

Pentwater went on an 8-2 run from there, climbing back into the contest in the final minute, helped by Onekama’s poor free-throw shooting. The Portagers missed 9 free throws in the final 2:22 of the game, including the front ends of its first two 1-and-1 opportunities, allowing the Falcons to come within one possession in the last minute.

“I was nervous,” Mauntler said. “I couldn’t even feel my arms up there.”

The Falcons made it a one-possession game on a 4-point sequence in the last minute of play, when Iain Stewart made a basket inside and was fouled with 50.4 seconds on the clock. He missed the ensuing free throw, but Austin Hoffman got the rebound, put it in, and was himself fouled on the play. Hoffman also missed the free throw, but the Faons had closed the gap to 45-42.

With Pentwater forced to foul, Onekama went to the free-throw line eight times in the final 46 seconds of the game, and converted only two of them.

That was just enough, and Onekama hoisted the trophy on its home floor.

Owen Knudsen led the Falcons with 12 points and Stewart added 9 in the game.

“It’s a big win for our program,” Bradford said. “We were close a few years back, but finally getting one feels good.”

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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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