CHARLEVOIX — Shot selection wasn’t at a premium, but when it came down to crunch time, Charlevoix earned among the easiest of them.
The Rayders hit 8-of-10 free throws in the fourth quarter — the only times Charlevoix went to the stripe all evening — to finish off a 45-38 home victory in Friday’s Lake Michigan Conference boys basketball game.
“We came out pretty aggressive, but a little too aggressive,” Rayders junior guard Evan Solomon said. “We were taking too many quick shots. We needed to slow down and get better quality shots and we did a rough job of that tonight, but came out with a win. That’s what really matters. ... Free throws really that saved us at the end.”
Solomon scored the Rayders’ first six points, with Mason Malpass notching eight of East Jordan’s first 10. The Red Devils led 10-4 early on before a pair of Caleb Stuck buckets tied it at 10 and John Sauer’s layup gave Charlevoix a 12-10 lead going into the second quarter.
East Jordan would go on to tie the game on six more occasions, but never get the lead back.
Solomon locked in for a perfect 7-for-7 fourth quarter from the charity stripe to hold off East Jordan’s charge.
A disjointed third quarter saw each team score only six points. Each Rayders bucket put them back up two, and each Red Devils basket knotted up the game once again.
Solomon had a streak in the second and third quarters where he scored five straight Charlevoix buckets, four of which put the Rayders back on top.
“It definitely does help having a couple years of experience on varsity, being in those moments before,” Solomon said. “It definitely helps with the pressure. You just feel good and feel confident stepping up to the line and hitting shots at the end of the game.”
Neither coach came away too happy with the overall performance, but took away good aspects from a contest played with less than a week’s worth of contact practices under their belts.
“Good defense, early season, limited practices,” East Jordan head coach Nate Dzwik said. “Some youth on both sides. Credit to Charlevoix and coach (Matt) Stuck, they executed some on the offensive end and we showed some youth on the defensive end and made some mental mistakes. You can’t let Evan Solomon get to the rim, or he’s gonna beat you. And he did.”
Charlevoix won by 19 and 13 last year, and a third meeting didn’t happen because of the coronavirus shutdown during districts. East Jordan took both matchups in 2018-19, and the Rayders claimed three meetings the previous year.
Charlevoix didn’t attempt a free throw until the fourth quarter, making 8-of-10, including a perfect 7-for-7 by Solomon.
“East Jordan could have beat us by 15 tonight,” Matt Stuck said. “They missed shots and opportunities that could have put us out of the game. They missed a bunch of free throws early. They could have been up 6-8 at halftime, and you’re talking a whole different game.”
East Jordan hit only two of 10 free throws, including all six first-half attempts.
The Rayder offense generated 12 points in the first quarter, nine in the second (all on 3-pointers by Solomon and Caleb Stuck) and then six in the third before all those free-throw trips led to an 18-point final stanza.
“Good learning curve; it was a good learning game for our kids,” Dzwik said. “You hate to say that in a loss, but most of those kids have never been in a game like this, especially a rivalry game. We tried to go in there and tell them, ‘Guys, you played 27 pretty solid minutes, and in our other five minutes we looked pretty bad.’ So, we’ll get better.”
Solomon led all scorers with 27 points, and Caleb Stuck notched a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Jacob Mueller battled foul trouble much of the game, but came away with five rebounds and two blocks before fouling out with 2:23 remaining. Ethan Putman and Max Ostrum combined for five steals.
Malpass paced the Red Devils with 17 points, Preston Malpass added 11 and Aydden Kluth eight.
“For as smart of kids as they are, it was the collectively the dumbest played game,” Stuck said. “And I hope it’s the last one, because the decision making was just awful. The effort was there and I have no problem with that. ... But making bad decisions, taking terrible shots, over and over again and still figuring out how to win makes you a little bit happier.”
The Devils (1-2, 1-1 Lake Michigan) don’t get much time to recoup. They play Tuesday at TC St. Francis, then host the Rayders Wednesday. Charlevoix (2-0, 2-0 Lake Michigan) plays Saturday at Glen Lake and Tuesday at Harbor Springs.
The win leaves Charlevoix and St. Francis as the only undefeated teams in LMC play after only a week.
“It’s the black-and-blue league,” Stuck said. “You know on any given night teams can get hot and there’s enough talent around the teams to be hot and beat anybody. And with the different styles of play and the pressing and all different types of defenses we look at in this league, you just don’t know what to expect on any given night.”