2018-01-11 / Sports

Bobcats win double overtime battle

Forty minutes of basketball came down to one play Tuesday night at Houghton Lake High School.

A steal and a layup by Bobcat senior Jackson Blanchard with two seconds left in double overtime was the deciding factor between Houghton Lake and Har­rison. The score and ensuing free throw gave the Bobcats a 57-54 varsity boys basketball win.

“That was the most surreal basketball experience I have ever been a part of. I thought our kids did a good job of main­taining their composure despite some unique events taking place. This was a huge win for our program against a 6-1 basketball team,” Bobcat Coach Jeff Goodwin said.

In a physical, defensive battle from the start, the Bobcats opened up a 7-2 first quarter lead and were up 18-13 at the half. Harrison gained a point on the Bobcats in the third quarter to trail 30-24 with eight minutes to play.

In the fourth quarter, the Hornets never led but pulled to within a point several times. Struggles from the free throw line – the Bobcats hit just 4-of-11 free throws in the fourth quarter – kept Harrison in the game, allowing sopho­more Hunter Woolston to hit a 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left to tie the game at 42-42 and force overtime.

In the first overtime, the Bobcats got all four points from Shawn McKinley while poor free throw shooting hit Har­rison as they converted just 2-of-6. Nei­ther team could pull away, and a basket at the buzzer by Bobcat John Steckler was waved off, leading to another over­time.

In the second overtime, it looked as if the Bobcats’ poor free throw shooting would finally do them in – Houghton Lake hit just 4-of-8 in double overtime. Trailing 53-49 with less than a minute to play, Houghton Lake junior Joey Pe­terson sank a 3-pointer and was fouled. While Peterson missed the free throw, the Bobcats were within one point, 53- 52.

Harrison’s next possession ended with the Hornets converting one of two free throws to give them a 54-52 lead.

Steckler scored for the Bobcats with 20 seconds remaining to tie the game at 54. Following a Harrison timeout, Blanchard made the play of the game when he stole the ball at halfcourt, raced in for a layup, made the shot and was fouled. Leading 56-54, Blanchard hit the foul shot with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to put the ‘Cats up 57-54.

A last-second shot by Harrison fell short and the Bobcats escaped with the Jack Pine Conference win.

“Rebounding and defense. It is as simple as that. Harrison did not have an offensive rebound until the second half of the basketball game. When you limit possessions and get extra possessions, you put yourself in a good position,” Goodwin said. “We have to keep get­ting better. It was a great win, but free throws and turnovers almost caught up with us. We are staying to our identity, and it is putting us in good situations, but we have to keep improving other areas. That being said, there is something to be said for competing hard and resiliency, and these boys show that every night!”

Leading the Bobcat defensive charge was Blanchard.

“Jackson Blanchard is going to be remembered for the steal and layup, and rightfully so, but what he did defensively against the conference’s leading scorer was masterful. He held him to zero first half points and seven for the game. We gave him no help and left him on an is­land. When you have a kid who can do that, it makes life much easier for the rest of the defense,” Goodwin.

McKinley, Peterson and Steckler each had 15 points to lead the Bobcats.

“Joey Peterson broke us out of our shooting slump in a big way. He hit four 3-pointers including a huge one in the second overtime. He was a huge boost for us offensively and I could not be more proud of the poise he displayed,” Goodwin said.

The leadership of Steckler and McKinley was also evident in the win.

“John Steckler and Shawn McKin­ley showed the value of three- and four- year varsity players. When we needed a score, we were able to put the ball in the middle of the defense and let them work,” Goodwin said.

Blanchard finished the game with five points while Brock Decker had four and Cam Sidelko had three.

The Bobcats finished 12-of-27 (44%) from the free throw line.

The win improves the Bobcats’ JPC record to 4-1 and they are now 5-2 overall. The Bobcats host Roscommon tonight (Thursday), with the freshman contest beginning at 4:30 p.m. followed by the junior varsity and varsity.

“Thursday is a huge game. I don’t care about Roscommon’s record or our record. Thursday is a rivalry in the purest form and, in this basketball pro­gram, losing to that school is not okay. Roscommon is playing very well their last two games. Our boys need to prepare well on Wednesday, because Thursday is going to be a battle like always,” Good­win said.

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