Chips fall late at home in thriller

Austin Guenther lays it in off the glass. Guenther led Manistee with 14 points. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — It’s not often that a team holds an opponent scoreless through the first quarter and finds itself trailing at halftime. Such was the case, however, in the Manistee boys basketball team’s game against Mason County Central. The Chippewas couldn’t capitalize on a shutout first quarter and went scoreless in the final 2:30 of the game to fall 32-30 at home Monday.

“I think that’s probably the best defensive effort we’ve had as a team all season long,” said Manistee head coach Dan Gustad. “When you hold a team to 32 points, you have to win those games. You just flat out have to win those games. We just have to find a way to put the ball in the hole.”

The Chippewas (2-7) started the fourth quarter enjoying a 22-19 advantage. The Spartans (3-5) scored to pull within one before Keaton Connell made a basket down low to put Manistee up 24-21. MCC then scored seven unanswered points to take a four-point lead.

“We had umpteen layups that we just gave away and didn’t finish,” Gustad said. “Those kind of things come back to haunt you at the end of the game, and they haunted us (Monday).”

Austin Guenther hit three unanswered jumpers to put Manistee up 30-28 with 2:30 on the clock. Unfortunately, the scoring ended there for the Chippewas, and despite having some good looks and three free throw attempts in the waning moments of the game, Manistee fell just short.

Guenther had a decent look at a 3-pointer from the corner that would have put Manistee up by one with five seconds on the clock but it was just off the mark.

“The shot at the end, I’ll take that shot,” Gustad said. “Austin’s been stroking the ball for us for the last three or four games. We made a penetration and if he doesn’t have a layup, kick it out to the guy, hit the three, hit the game-winner and go home.

“That didn’t happen, but that shot didn’t lose the game for us.”

Guenther led the team with a game-high 14 points, three assists and two steals. Connell chipped in with six points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks, Kyle Mantych finished with four points and 11 rebounds and William Elberts recorded six points, two steals, three assists and four rebounds.

The game was the Chippewas’ third in four days.

Manistee opened the game with three unanswered 3-pointers — two by Elbers and the third by Guenther with 4:55 left in the first quarter. Neither team was able to score for the remainder of the first.

“It was probably our best defensive game by far,” Guenther said. “It’s just, we have to make open layups when we get them. And our free throws, because those are easy points.”

The Spartans finally got on the board when center Jeffery Carrier hit a pair of free throws with 5:51 remaining in the first half. Mantych answered back with a bucket down low before MCC closed the quarter on a 10-0 run to hold a 12-11 lead at halftime.

Manistee missed all eight of its free throw attempts Monday.

Carrier scored to start the second half before Mantych answered back by grabbing an offensive rebound and putting it in for a score. The Spartans split a pair of free throws to go up by two before Guenther hit a 3-pointer, Connell scored inside and Guenther made a layup to put Manistee up 20-15 and force an MCC timeout.

Gustad was pleased with how his team limited Carrier’s scoring Monday.

“We did a very nice job,” Gustad said. “We ran through some defensive sets (Sunday) in practice. We said, ‘All right, when (Carrier) gets the ball we’re going to do this and this.’ They followed the gameplan almost to a T. It was a pleasure to watch them play defense.

“They played together as a team and they did some great things.”

Manistee was without the services of two starters Monday, with point guard Anselmo Sarabia and Matthew Kneidl unable to play.

After a Spartans score, Connell hit a jumper with two defenders on him to put Manistee up 22-17. Carrier made a layup to cut the deficit to three heading into the final stanza.

Gustad believes once the Chippewas get back into the swing of things, the layups and free throws will start to fall for them. Monday was to be the first day of school following Christmas Break, but Mother Nature had other plans and Gustad thinks it may have thrown things off.

“With the snow day (Monday), the kids are a little out of their routine,” Gustad said. “I was kind of hoping they’d have school to get back in that school routine. School, and then after school and then the game at night time.

“They sleep in and things happen and it’s not that they didn’t play with energy, because they did play hard (Monday). They played really, really hard. The shots just didn’t fall tonight. That’s just one of those nights.”

Manistee won the JV game 39-27, led by Grant Schlaff’s 13 points.

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