League-leading Sabers on a roll: Manistee Catholic Central downs Mesick, 58-35

Manistee Catholic Central’s Brayden Perkins looks to score against Mesick defenders during the Sabers’ victory on Wednesday night. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Manistee Catholic Central boys basketball headed into Wednesday’s game against Mesick perched atop the West Michigan D League, with a perfect 6-0 record in conference play. The Bulldogs were not up to the task of handing the Sabers their first WMDL loss and — despite a slow start — MCC cruised to a 58-35 victory.

Mesick (2-6, 2-5 WMDL) jumped out to a 5-0 lead before Manistee Catholic’s (7-1, 7-0 WMDL) Brayden Perkins scored from deep. MCC’s Preston Picardat scored down low and Blake Johnson hit a 3-pointer to put the Sabers up 8-5 with 2:41 remaining in the first quarter.

“All these teams are good,” said MCC head coach Mike Feliczak. “We’re an even league. Mesick came out of the Northwest Conference. They play a little different style.

“They’re ready to play basketball every night because they used to have to, and they showed it tonight,” he continued. “They looked better than we did in the first half.”

After a Bulldog basket, Kyle Mikolajczak scored inside to put the the Sabers up 10-7 after one quarter.

After dropping their season-opener in a non-conference game against Onekama, the Sabers had rattled off six wins in a row heading into Wednesday’s contest.

Picardat scored to start the second quarter, drawing a foul in the process but missing the ensuing free throw. The two teams traded baskets for the remainder of the half, with Mikolajczak scoring twice and Picardat scoring the final points of the second to leave MCC clinging to an 18-14 lead at halftime.

“That’s just poor basketball in the first half,” Feliczak said. “If you beat a team 40-21 in the second half, and you only score 18 and beat them by four in the first half, we didn’t have our guys ready to play, and they weren’t ready to play. That’s my assessment.”

The Sabers grabbed 23 rebounds on the night while the Bulldogs pulled down 13.

Manistee Catholic exploded for 21 third-quarter points. Perkins made a layup, Mikolajczak split a pair of free throws before finding Picardat down low for an easy basket to put the Sabers up 23-14 and forcing a Mesick timeout with 6:48 in the frame.

“I think they came out a little frustrated (in the second half), just like the coaches were,” Feliczak said. “They kind of played good basketball for the third period. And the fourth period, for the most part.

“It’s just hard to get the taste of the first half out of my mouth.”

After another layup by Perkins, the Bulldogs hit a 3-pointer for their first points of the second half. The Sabers responded with an 11-0 run to go up 36-17 with 2:07 left in the third quarter — essentially putting the game out of Mesick’s reach. The teams entered the final stanza with MCC enjoying a 39-22 advantage.

“It’s like a restart at half,” Feliczak said. “Of course, the second half was a decent half, but you can’t have lackadaisical first halves or quarters. They’ll cost you when it counts. That’s what I tried to tell them: We’re not going to beat good teams playing 16 minutes.”

Mesick scored first in the fourth quarter, but MCC’s Mateo Barnett answered back with a basket inside. John Slivka scored down low before he and Mikolajczak both sunk a pair of free throws to put the Sabers up 47-24 with 4:41 on the clock.

“At times we played all right, but we just talked about, we’re going to work on defense (Thursday),” Feliczak said. “I’m not too sure we were that great. We gave a lot of 3-pointers to (Mesick’s Colin Cook). He’s a good shooter, obviously, but we have to get a hand in his face.

“We have to play better defense.”

Perkins led the Sabers in scoring with 18 points. Mikolajczak added 15 points and six rebounds, Picardat tallied 14 points, four boards and five assists while Slivka finished with four points and five rebounds.

Mikolajczak and Nolan Fortier scored down low before Mesick answered back with a 3-pointer. Perkins scored inside and from deep to put MCC up 56-30 with 1:16 remaining. Mesick made a layup before Perkins scored the Sabers’ last points of the game off an assist from Picardat. The Bulldogs hit a 3-pointer with 23 seconds on the clock to end the night’s scoring.

“I mean, it’s a win,” Feliczak said. “Both teams came to play. You can’t put it all on me or the guys not playing good — some of the credit goes to Mesick. They came to play basketball.

“I’m guessing (Mesick head coach Kyle Duby) thinks they played good basketball with a great effort, and they did.”

The Sabers next see action when they host Walkerville Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Mesick won the JV game 62-18.

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