BY JAMES COOK
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Earlier this season, East Jordan won its first game against Traverse City St. Francis in about a decade.
Why not go for two?
The Red Devils invaded St. Francis' gym Tuesday and left with a 72-60 Lake Michigan Conference victory.
"It's extraordinary," East Jordan senior Noah Bacchus said. "I've never done this. Four years on varsity and we haven't beaten them once. It feels good to beat them twice in a season."
Bacchus — who nearly had a triple-double in the win, putting up 16 points, nine assists and nine rebounds — not only hadn't beaten St. Francis before this season, but most games weren't close.
"We were losing by like 15 or 20 points," he said, "getting humiliated sometimes."
The setback snapped St. Francis' three-game winning streak.
"It's been awhile, especially here," eight-year East Jordan coach Darrin Weber said. "Twice in the same season. We're on a little bit of a roll. These guys keep impressing me every game. You come into a hostile environment, and Traverse City has been on a little bit of a roll and improving. This is a signature win for us and our program."
Last week's 53-40 win over Charlevoix also marked the first time under Weber the Red Devils (10-2, 8-2 LMC) beat the Rayders twice in a season.
"We tried to neutralize their bigs by playing up-tempo," Weber said of the Glads' pair of 6-foot-8 interior players. "If they get you in a half-court game, they're tough to defend. And (Byron) Bullough is so strong, too. We don't match up very well, but I've got kids with really good basketball IQs, and they do a lot of nice things on the floor and they help each other out when the big guys do catch it."
"We spread everything out," Bacchus said. "We ran a little 41, which is a high pick, and try to keep the big guys moving as much as possible. We tried to push it and keep them running."
East Jordan's guard-oriented offense gave the much bigger Gladiators fits.
The Devils broke the Gladiator press on the dribble and that opened up numerous fast break opportunities and open jump shots — many of which found net.
"We like it when teams press us a bit," Weber said. "We can get out and run a little bit, and that's the style we've come to enjoy to play."
East Jordan was 8 of 16 from 3-point range and 26 for 58 (44.8 percent) total from the field.
A pair of 7-0 first-quarter runs put East Jordan up 23-16. Bacchus' spinning lay-up finished off the first for an 11-6 lead, and Donny Cutler hit back-to-back jumpers as part of the second to go up 21-9.
"Coach always tells us that I'm the captain, so I need to show leadership," Bacchus said. "I told the guys we had this and we came out and did what we prepared to do."
From there on, St. Francis would pull as close as six at 32-26 on 10 consecutive points by 6-8 center Tanner Kenny, but the Devils pushed their lead back to around 10 most of the remainder, leading by as many as 19 after an 8-0 run to start the second half that was capped off by a Bacchus triple.
"Bacchus always plays well," Weber said. "(Jordan Weber) got hot early. Colin Petrie stepped up big tonight. Sometimes he kin of thinks pass first, shot second. But he was thinking shot first and dropped a couple threes and got a couple lay-ups out of it."
Petrie's 16 points were a career high. Jordan Weber scored 11, Cutler 10 and Dustin Hejka nine. All of Hejka's points in the second half, and the 5-9 guard also grabbed seven rebounds.
"They did a great job of finishing — and we didn't," St. Francis coach Keith Haske said. "We put the ball in spots where I thought we should finish and make lay-ups, and we just didn't finish. At some point, it's hard to overcome that."
The Glads (5-9, 3-8 LMC) travel to Elk Rapids on Friday.
"I feel bad for Byron Bullough because he plays so hard and wants to do so well," Haske said. "It's nights like this where we just struggle trying to find support for him. He's been a great kid to coach and competes every possession.
"We know they're a good shooting team. They ran a lot of ball screens and we did just an awful job of jump switching and taking care of that. We have a lot of work to do. The tournament is coming up. Hopefully we can get some stuff done before that."