TRAVERSE CITY — With Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio on hand to watch Spartan recruit Byron Bullough on the hardwood, it was Noah Phillips who stole the show.
Not that Bullough wasn’t a standout. The senior forward/linebacker had 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists in a 76-65 win over Charlevoix.
Phillips, meanwhile, matched his season-high with 31 points, adding 10 rebounds and three blocks in the process.
And both were in foul trouble for stretches of the game, making their production that much more impressive.
More importantly, it was a win for the Glads, who are now 2-5 and 1-4 in Lake Michigan Conference action.
“It was a good win for us,” Phillips said. “It’s always good to win against Charlevoix, with coach coming from there. We always try to get a win for him.”
Fourth-year St. Francis coach Keith Haske improved to 7-1 against his former team.
“It’s just nice to win,” Haske said. “We’ve been struggling a little bit to get over the top. I really was impressed with Noah Phillips early in the game. He played like he’s capable of. Seeing him throw down a couple times is good for his confidence.”
Phillips scored the game’s first 12 points, including a steal at midcourt that turned into a one-handed dunk at the other end. A put-back 4:53 into the game made it Phillips 12, Charlevoix four. Another dunk in the first quarter’s final minute — this one a two-hander off one of Lance Anderson’s four assists — made it 22-12.
“They were all falling for me,” said Phillips, who has offers from Siena Heights and Aquinas and is visiting several other schools later this year. “(Last Friday) was kind of rough for me. It was good to finally see them fall.”
St. Francis would ride that wave to a 40-31 halftime lead and survive a third quarter played for long stretches without either Bullough or Phillips due to foul trouble. The Rayders would pull as close as five on a Justin Pearl driving lay-up midway through the third with both Gladiator stars on the bench.
A pair of Gus Danz buckets and a Dylan Sheehy drive put St. Francis back up 51-41 to stem the tide and then Phillips came back into the game and promptly drilled a 3-pointer. The Glads’ lead wouldn’t shrink under 10 again until both teams emptied their benches.
“Gus Danz played a great game,” Phillips said. “Lance Anderson had a couple great steals, and Dylan’s a great point guard. Everyone stepped up and did their job, and the got the ‘W.’”
“The thing we did that we haven’t done is we get ahead and they start to make a little run back, and then we’d make a play,” Haske said. “Early in the season, we’d get ahead and they’d make a run and we’d let them come right back. Gus Danz made a couple big shots when they were making run.”
Danz finished with 11 points.
Austin Putman led the Rayders with 11 points, Nate Moon had 10 and Matt MacKenzie had nine.
“We just made a few mistakes when we were making that run,” Charlevoix coach Bret Erskine said. “We cut it to seven and then we had a ball go off our hands under the basket. Then we turned it over again. Just some little things we have to fix to get better.”
The Rayders (3-6, 2-6 LMC) were playing without 6-8 center Zach Hankins, who is out for the rest of the regular season with a broken foot. There’s an outside shot the Ferris State recruit could return for the playoffs, but Erskine said he isn’t banking on it.
The Gladiators, meanwhile, could be looking at a nice run once they add 6-8 pivot player Tanner Kenny next to the 6-8 Phillips. Kenny hasn’t played this season after transferring from TC Central. He was eligible to play Monday, but a shoulder injury prevented him from making his St. Francis debut.
“It’s going to be tough to stop,” Phillips said. “Not many teams have one 6-8 guy, let alone two. It’s going to be fun. I can’t wait.
“We’re going to try to win out. That’s our goal right now. We’ve got the guys. We’ve got the talent. We’ve got a great coach, so I’m sure he can get us to where we need to go.”