Onekama falls to Sacred Heart in regional semis

Onekama junior Ben Acton (11) goes up for two of his co-team-high 10 points in the Portagers’ 55-43 loss to Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart in the Class D regional semifinals at Cadillac Monday night. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Onekama junior Ben Acton (11) goes up for two of his co-team-high 10 points in the Portagers’ 55-43 loss to Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart in the Class D regional semifinals at Cadillac Monday night. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

CADILLAC — Onekama ended a successful basketball season with a thud, falling 55-43 to Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart in the Class D regional semifinals at Cadillac Monday.

The loss gave the Portagers a final record of 16-7 for the season, its only defeat at the hands of a Class D team not named Frankfort or Buckley and a chance to reflect on a campaign in which Onekama finished fourth in the Northwest Conference behind a 3-way tie top the standings and won its first district title in 15 years.

It was also the last time on the varsity hardwood for Portager seniors Jayden DeWitt, Nick Falk, Jacob Mauntler and Jeremiah Torrey.

Onekama head coach Nathan Bradford said that Sacred Heart’s size advantage made it difficult for his team.

“They were big, and the beat us up a little bit on the boards,” Bradford said. “They’re pretty balanced, inside and out. I give the kids credit, we battled, but we just couldn’t hit the baskets when we needed to.”

Falk and Ben Acton shared team-high scoring honors with 10 points each in the season finale, which Onekama led for the first half of the first quarter, but never again after that.

Falk had a bit of a scary moment early in the second quarter when he dove for a loose ball and hit his head on the floor. He soon returned to the game after being cleared by the trainer on hand, but was never quite the same afterward.

“We gave him a little spell (on the bench), but I think it did affect him a little bit,” Bradford said.

Acton opened the scoring with an and-1 3-point play 24 seconds in, but Sacred Heart closed the first quarter on a 10-0 run, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Irish Colton Nelson.

Nelson, who led all scorers with 23 points in the game, had 3 threes in the opening stanza to help his team take a 17-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Onekama fought almost all the way back early in the second, thanks in part to 2 threes by Taylor Bennett, closing the gap to four points before a late Irish putback restored the 6-point cushion with which Sacred Heart started the quarter, and gave them a 27-21 lead at the break.

Onekama made it a one-possession game early in the third quarter, getting threes from Torrey and Bennett along the way, the latter of which cut the Irish lead to 34-31 with 3:28 remaining in the third.

But those would be the last points Onekama would score in the quarter, which Sacred Heart closed out on another 10-0 run to take a 44-31 advantage into the fourth.

“We had that run, and I thought we were going to get a lead,” Bradford said. “But we had a long spell without making a basket, and that hurt us.”

Onekama would not really threaten again.

Sacred Heart opened up its biggest lead with the opening bucket of the fourth, and helped Onekama out by missing free throws, but the Portagers’s shooting touch deserted them in the fourth.

The Irish took just two points away from its three 1-and-1 opportunities, and missed nine free throws in the fourth quarter, but Onekama could not take advantage.

“We didn’t quit. We fought right to the end,” Bradford said. “Sometimes you have one of those nights where you miss a few shots, and if a couple of those go down we get a little momentum and it changes the game quite a bit.”

Bennett finished with 9 points, hitting three of his four 3-point attempts, but the rest of the Portagers combined for one long bomb in 16 attempts. Onekama shot 40 percent overall from the field, but were awarded just two free throws in the entire contest, one of them on Acton’s opening play 24 seconds in.

Five Sacred Heart players scored, three of them in double figures. Nelson scored his 23 points without converting a field goal in the second half, and Zach Wentworth and Joe Methner each scored 12 for the Irish.

DeWitt finished with 6 points, and Torrey and Mauntler had four each in their last game for Onekama basketball.

“I told the kids not to hang their heads,” Bradford said. “The Northwest Conference is pretty tough competition, we had a great season and it’s nice to get a district title. Hopefully the younger guys see this and keep things going in the future.”

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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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