CCA sends seniors out with a win

IN TRAFFIC: Crossroads Charter Academy’s Caleb Balanda (32) tries to get a shot off between a pair of Walkerville defenders Thursday at Crossroads Charter Academy High School. (Pioneer photo/Bob Allan)

Cougars’ Balanda scores 18 in victory over Walkerville

BIG RAPIDS — The Crossroads Charter Academy student section raced to make a tunnel to the lockerroom and began to cheer.

The Cougars boys basketball players took it all in, with big smile on their faces after recording a 58-45 victory over Walkerville on Thursday night.

To CCA coach Jason Kostecki, he couldn’t imagine a better way to send out the seniors and go into the postseason.

“That is the good thing about our school,” Kostecki began. “They are always cheering, regardless of the score or the record.”

The student section caught Caleb Balanda’s attention as well.

Balanda was one of two seniors, the other was Dylan Balsitis, who played their last game at Crossroads Charter Academy. After Balanda fouled out, the student section gave him a cheer.

The student section gave a loud cheer as well to Balsitis, who kissed midcourt after being substituted for in the final seconds.

“This was all pretty exciting because we are all family,” Balanda said. “But it also is difficult because I’m going to miss it a lot.”

Balanda was the focal point of a Cougars offense that tried to get the ball into the post players hands. The senior responded with 18 points, coming up with big buckets whenever the Wildcats got close.

“I thought we took advantage of (Balanda’s size) but not as good as I would have hoped,” Kostecki said.

Part of the reason was Walkerville’s Sam Sweet, who was able to penetrate the lane and get lay-ups or to the foul line. If the Crossroads defense backed off just a step, Sweet wasn’t afraid to put up a shot from well behind the 3-point arc.

ON THE MOVE: Crossroads Charter Academy’s James Strickland (left) drives around Sam Sweet of Walkerville during Thurday’s boys basketball action at Crossroads Charter Academy High School. The Cougars picked up the victory to end the regular season. (Pioneer photo/Bob Allan)

Sweet finished with 32 points.

“I thought James (Strickland) and Justin (Thorne) did a good job on him,” Kostecki said. “I thought we limited him in the second half, he had only two buckets.”

Crossroads had trouble pulling away from Walkerville in the fourth quarter. Leading by as many as 11, the Wildcats chipped away at the deficit and cut the advantage to seven with four minutes remaining.

But a bucket by Kavoceya Stewart to go along with solid free throw shooting from Strickland put the game out of reach. Aron Garland finished with 11 points for the Cougars and Strickland and Stewart netted 10 each.

“We wanted to get that into our mind that we wanted to win this game and go into the postseason on a positive note,” Balanda said.

Crossroads Charter Academy is in action Monday when it travels to Beal City for a quarterfinal match-up with Marion. The Cougars defeated the Eagles in the first game of the season.

“I like where we our heads are at,” Kostecki said of the postseason. “In the tournament, everybody starts over. You never know what might happen.”

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