Sabers fall to Wildcats for first league loss

Manistee Catholic Central’s Preston Picardat goes up for a shot in the paint Friday night in the Sabers’ West Michigan D League loss to Walkerville. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Manistee Catholic Central boys basketball hosted Walkerville in a West Michigan D League contest Friday. Despite enjoying a 10-point lead midway through the third quarter, the Sabers fell to the Wildcats 45-42 in a barn burner.

“We had opportunities at the end,” said MCC head coach Mike Feliczak. “We had opportunities throughout the whole game. We didn’t convert some easy buckets.”

MCC (7-2, 7-1 WMDL) entered the fourth quarter leading 36-32. Kyle Mikolajczak added to the lead with a basket down low, but the Wildcats (8-2, 6-2 WMDL) scored 11 unanswered to go up 43-38 with 3:34 left in the contest.

“I mean, give (Walkerville) credit,” Feliczak said. “They give us fits every time we play them. They’re a good team. They’ve got more than a couple good players. It was just a good night of basketball and we came up short.”

Brayden Perkins split a pair of free throws to pull the Sabers within four with 2:22 on the clock. Perkins came up with a steal and converted an easy layup to make the score 43-41 with 48 seconds remaining. The Wildcats missed their next five free throws, but Manistee Catholic could only score one point in that span.

“We just missed a lot of layups, and we turned the ball over a lot,” said MCC’s Preston Picardat. “If we would have controlled those two things we definitely could have won. It was a good learning experience. We still have all our goals in tact, so we just have to come out better and work harder.”

Walkerville went up 45-42 with seven seconds in the game after sinking a pair of free throws. The Sabers pushed the ball up the floor and a turnaround, fadeaway 3-pointer from the corner by Blake Johnson was off the mark.

“It was great to play in a really close game even though we came up short,” Feliczak said. “It’s a 20-game season before districts and we can use this as something to learn from. We’re not going to win 19 games and lose one. It’s a long battle and you have to learn how to win.

“Maybe we didn’t do that (Friday), but maybe we will in the future,” he continued. “We’ll learn from it.”

The Sabers were outscored 13-6 in the final frame.

Baskets were hard to come by for both teams in the first quarter, with Perkins scoring the first field goal of the game to give MCC a 2-1 lead with 2:36 left in the opening quarter. Walkerville scored down low before Perkins split a pair of free throws and found Picardat down low for a bucket to give the Sabers a 5-3 lead after one.

“On offense I thought we were getting looks inside,” Feliczak said. “We were getting the looks we want but (Friday) they just didn’t go in. Just a good night. I feel better about (Friday) than I did the other night (when MCC bested Mesick despite a poor first half), and we lost (Friday).”

The Wildcats tied things up at 5-5 early in the second quarter before Mikolajczak made a pair of free throws to regain the lead. Johnson scored inside after a Wildcat basket to put MCC up 9-7 with 5:54 left in the half.

“I thought we learned how to play a little bit of help defense against (Walkerville’s) two guys,” Feliczak said. “Nobody’s going to shut those two guys down. They’re very athletic, they can drive and they can shoot, so we needed to play good help defense.

“And we did, but they’re just two good scorers.”

A Walkerville basket tied things back up, but John Slivka and Perkins each hit a 3-pointer to give the Sabers a 15-9 lead. Walkerville scored six straight points before Mateo Barnett scored inside to retake the lead with 2:34 left in the second.

“The whole close game was a good thing for our team because we haven’t really been in one of those this year,” Picardat said. “It’s a good learning experience for down the road, later in the season.”

After the Wildcats took a 20-17 lead, Mikolajczak scored from deep to tie things up at 20-20. Picardat scored with 23 seconds on the clock to send the teams to the locker rooms with Manistee Catholic enjoying a 22-20 lead at halftime.

“We talked about at halftime,” Feliczak said. “I said, ‘Look, don’t think you won a game if you get up by six in the second half, and don’t think you’re out of it if you get down by six at half. This game’s going down to the end.’

“I said two things: ‘They’re not going away and the lead’s going to flip-flop.’ And it did. They came out on the right end of it and we didn’t.”

Picardat led Manistee Catholic with 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal. Perkins finished with 11 points and two assists, Mikolajczak recorded nine points and five boards while Slivka had three points and five rebounds.

The Sabers stormed out of the gates in the third quarter with a 10-2 run that saw Perkins make a layup, Picardat score two baskets inside, Mikolajczak score down low and Barnett sink a pair of free throws to put MCC up 32-22 with 2:59 to go in the third.

“I think we ran the pick and roll pretty well, and we played pretty good defense,” Picardat said. “(The loss) is just something that can motivate us to come back and be better.”

Walkerville stopped the bleeding with a layup before Picardat sunk a 10-foot jumper. The Wildcats scored inside and hit two 3-pointers before Picardat answered back with a bucket to give the Sabers a 36-32 advantage heading into the final stanza.

“It’s a hard-fought loss but we can learn from playing in a close game, what it comes down to,” Feliczak said. “We had a few guys have off nights. Some of it’s (Walkerville) — some if it’s just an off night. We’ll go from there.

“… (Walkerville) is a good team,” he continued. “We knew that. They beat is in the district last year and we knew they were good coming in.”

The Sabers next see action 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Onekama, with hopes of avenging their season-opening loss to the Portagers.

Walkerville won the JV game 51-28.

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