TRAVERSE CITY — At its best, the Traverse City West boys basketball team is as good as any team in the Big North Conference.
That much was clear against league-leading Cadillac on Thursday night.
The Titans forced Cadillac standout Jalen Brooks into a tough night offensively and had a scoring barrage in the third quarter to defeat the Vikings 57-42 at West High School.
West (4-7, 3-2 Big North) turned a five-point halftime lead into a 20-point bulge as it outscored Cadillac 25-10 in the third, running off a string of 17 straight points over a four-minute stretch early in the quarter.
“We played a great third quarter. It’s kind of been a tough quarter for us all year actually,” said West head coach Greg Immink. “Today we played the way you’re supposed to play coming out of halftime. Big win for us to continue the momentum we started a couple weeks ago. I feel like our guys are starting to hit their stride now.”
Alex Scott and Stephen Sheppard accounted for all of the Titans’ points during the decisive segment, scoring more than half of them from beyond the arc. Scott ended up leading the Titans with 24 points and Sheppard had 18.
“We do have good shooters, contrary to what people have seen so far,” said Immink. “It’s fun when a couple of guys get going at the same time. We really haven’t had that yet. We’ve had one guy get hot one game, different guy a second game.”
Help defense by Cadillac opened up opportunities for the Titans.
“Sheppard’s such a good shooter. We helped off him a little bit because Scott was hurting us on some pick and roll stuff,” said Cadillac coach Jeff McDonald. “When you help off Sheppard, and he gets it going, he’s too good of a shooter. Hats off to them. They played a really good third quarter and we didn’t.”
Equally as important as the Titans’ offensive explosion was their defense on Brooks, who torched West for 39 points in a 62-58 victory earlier this year. Cadillac’s senior forward led his team with 17 points, but he only connected on 6 of 20 shots and eight of his total didn’t come until the final quarter when Cadillac (7-3, 5-2) was trying to mount a furious rally from what was a 24-point deficit. Jonny Wheelock was assigned to guard Brooks at the start, with Ty Troxell and Tristan Roman also taking turns at keeping him from single-handedly taking over the game.
“We’ve been working on it all week in practice, since the last time we played them,” said Wheelock. “He had a lot of points and that’s all we’ve been focused on. He’s a solid player and we just did our best to stop him.”
The Titans were able to step over with some help-side defense in instances where Brooks was able to get open heading to the rim.
“He’s really quick and he’s got a pull-up jump shot,” said Wheelock. “All you can do is contest the jump shot and have really good help defense, and that’s what we did.”
West’s biggest lead of the night was 43-19 late in the third quarter. Cadillac trailed 43-23 heading into the fourth quarter, then scored the first eight points of the final period. The Vikings got as close as 10 points with four minutes to go.
“We just didn’t want to give in,” said McDonald. “We have a nice team and we have a good season going. We didn’t want it to fall apart in terms of discipline or effort. I was proud of our kids for battling all the way through. It’s tough to win on the road in the Big North. You just can’t shoot the ball the way we did in the first half from the field and then from the line. They got it going in the third quarter and got a cushion on us. It was too much for us to overcome.”
The West JV posted a 47-41 victory to improve to 10-1 overall. Nick Brzezinski scored 23 points and Chase Grierson nine for the Titans. Sam Waterson had 11 points and Cam McTaggert 10 for Cadillac.