TRAVERSE CITY — For Cadillac, it was kind of an ugly win. For Central, kind of a beautiful setback.
The Vikings escaped the Trojans’ gym with a 51-42 overtime victory in a game in which Central led pretty much from the second quarter on until Jalen Brooks’ bank shot finished off an end-to-end drive with 3.9 ticks left to knot it up.
“They were in control and we had a hard time stopping their inside guys,” Cadillac coach Jeff McDonald said. “Their pressure hurt us. For us to hang in there, I’m proud of our kids. They hung in there and Jalen made the tough shot there at the end. We put it in his hands and he made a big play in a game where he struggled some.”
The Vikings (6-2, 5-1 BNC) scored the first nine points of overtime to control the extra session, despite missing seven of 12 from the free-throw line.
“Usually, when you miss free throws and lay-ups, you lose games,” McDonald said. “We missed a number of lay-ups we should have made and had very few guys step up and hit two free throws in a row. We’ve been pretty good from the line as a team and have won games because of free-throw shooting. (Tuesday), we almost lost a game because we didn’t shoot it well.”
The Vikings had tied it up at 37 on Lewis Finch’s put-back with 33 seconds left in regulation before Central (2-8, 2-3 BNC) went back up when an inbound pass from Austin Podsaid found Max Knoblock open underneath for a lay-up with 11.9 ticks remaining.
“We said whoever Jalen was guarding — and I think he’s the best athlete in the league — I was like, ‘You have to go to the elbow and take him two steps out so we can throw the lob in,’” Central coach Jeff Turner said. “And our kids did it. They made a good adjustment on the fly. A good inbound pass. A good finish. Great execution.”
“That was a great play call to give them the lead on the inbounds play,” McDonald said. “We were fortunate to tie and then play well in overtime.”
Cadillac jumped out to a 6-0 lead early on, but the Trojans clawed back to even at 8-8 at the first quarter’s conclusion. All eight Central points came from 6-foot-7 center Jackson Schrameyer.
Where the first quarter was Schrameyer’s, the second belonged to Knoblock, who scored 11 of the team’s 15 points in that stanza.
“I thought it was our best effort of the season,” Turner said. “It might not look like it, but our kids defended really well. But everything we did well for four quarters, at the beginning of overtime kind of fell apart and we gave them seven easy points. Two of the shots were totally uncontested.”
Brooks rolled an ankle with two minutes left in the first half, but returned after halftime.
Podsaid and Ethan Campbell did the brunt of keeping Brooks in check, holding the Cadillac star forward to 14 points and nine rebounds.
“He’s one of the kids we really worry about,” Turner said. “He’s so athletic. He shoots it pretty well from the outside and he posts up really well. We switched off screens, so at some point, just about everybody was on him. Podsaid did a nice job, Ethan Campbell did a nice job, Max Knoblock did a nice job. I thought Mitchell Wynkoop, he got caught on him a couple times and did a nice job.”
The Trojans have struggled shooting from the outside and from the free throw line. That continued Tuesday, as Central didn’t hit a single 3-pointer and was 5 of 15 from the stripe.
“All those things don’t add up to you being very successful,” Turner said. “But like I told the kids, we’ve halfway through the season. We can let this define our season or we can redefine what’s happening and finish out from here. We’ve got a good group of kids that work hard.”
Knoblock scored a game-high 17 points to go along with eight rebounds, while Schrameyer had 15 points and seven rebounds and Nate Schlusler added six points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Justin Liptak scored 12 points for Cadillac, while Andrew Emington had nine points and three assists and Finch chipped in six points and six boards.
Cadillac also rallied to win the JV game 41-38 behind 12 points from Ethan Baker and 11 by Storm Waterson. James Brumfield led Central with 11 points.
The Trojans won the freshman contest 37-23 as Fitz Doud scored 10 points.
TC Central returns to action Friday at Alpena — the only BNC team to have beaten Cadillac.
Cadillac has lost only two games — their season opener on Dec. 10 and the Vikings first game after Christmas break on Jan. 10. Luckily, they have no other regular-season games scheduled on the 10th of the month.
“Everybody is the Big North is young and winning on the road is going to be really hard to do,” McDonald said. “Coach Turner’s team made us play badly. We contributed with some missed lay-up and free throws along the way. We were very fortunate to get that game tied and then we got off to a good start in overtime. They’ve only won twice, so I think we put some doubt in their mind then.”
A win over the league-leading Vikings would have been a perfect 10 for Central as well.
“We’re never happy with a loss,” Turner said. “But we’re excited about the effort. That’s a huge stepping stone we can take forward. If we play with that kind of effort, we’ll be in a lot of games just like this. Some of them we might win and some we might lose, but that’s a huge step in the right direction for us.”