Portagers edge Panthers in NWC clash

Onekama’s Ben Acton blocks a shot during the Portagers’ 54-51 win over Frankfort Saturday. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

ONEKAMA — Onekama boys basketball did just enough to earn a home Northwest Conference win against Frankfort Saturday. A late run by the Panthers made things interesting but the Portagers walked away with a 54-51 win.

“I told the guys to come out and play with intensity,” said Onekama head coach Nathan Bradford. “Usually, when we have the intensity going, we kind of feed off that on the defensive end and then the offense gets going.”

The Portagers (8-6, 5-5 NWC) started the final stanza enjoying a 41-34 advantage. The two teams traded baskets for most of the game until Frankfort (11-4, 8-3 NWC) scored seven unanswered points to pull within a point of Onekama with 11.1 seconds left in the contest. Taylor Bennett was sent to the foul line for a 1-and-1 and calmly sunk a pair of free throws to put the Portagers up three with six seconds left in the game.

The Panthers inbounded the ball and scrambled to get a shot up. A long 3-point attempt was well off the mark and when the final buzzer sounded, Onekama was the victor.

“(Aric) Hopwood hit a couple big 3s down in the corner and I thought Taylor did a good job handling the ball for us,” Bradford said. “It got a little hectic down at the end, but I give the kids credit — we pulled it out when we needed to.”

Ben Acton led the Portagers with 19 points, five rebounds, two steals and three blocks. Hopwood added 15 points and three rebounds, Bennett finished with 10 points, two assists and nine rebounds while Aaron Powers tallied seven points, five rebounds and two steals.

Acton scored in the waning seconds of the first quarter to cut Frankfort’s lead to 13-12. Bennett gave Onekama the lead early in the second quarter with a score down low, but the Panthers answered back with a score of their own. The Portagers scored six unanswered points when Bennett scored inside, Ben Johnson split a pair of free throws, Powers put back an offensive rebound for a score and Acton made a free throw.

“I thought the guys did a good job handling (Frankfort’s) pressure,” Bradford said. “They took care of the basketball, got down, attacked the basket and were strong with the basketball.”

Frankfort five quick points to tie things up at 20 with 1:51 left in the first half, but Powers responded with a 3-pointer. A Panther player scored down low before Acton made a basket to give Onekama a 25-22 lead at halftime.

“(Frankfort) played tenacious defense,” Bradford said. “They’re up in your face and up on you. I told the guys, ‘Be strong with the basketball and be resilient with it and make sure you don’t turn it over. They’re going to pressure you, but the nice thing when teams overplay is you can take advantage of it and hit the open guy.’

“And we did,” he continued. “When they did double-team, we hit the open guy and knocked down shots when we needed to. I was proud of the guys.”

The Portagers opened the third quarter with a 9-2 run during which Bennett made a layup, Acton put back an offensive board for a score, Hopwood hit a 3-pointer and Powers scored on a breakaway. After Frankfort responded with five unanswered points, Hopwood went on to score the Portagers’ next seven points when he hit a 3-pointer and made two baskets in the paint. The Panthers hit a 3-pointer at the end of the frame to pull within seven heading into the fourth quarter.

Bradford was glad to see how his team handled the pressure of a close game and believes it will benefit them as they prepare for district play in a couple weeks.

“It’s good experience all-around,” Bradford said. “I told the kids that sometimes we don’t get the calls down at the end — you just have to be strong with it. We won the close won. Hopefully, when we get in similar situations we can come out on the topside on those, also.”

Onekama heads to Manton today for a non-conference game at 7:30 p.m.

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