NEW BUFFALO — A strong defensive effort carried the Bridgman High School boys basketball team to a 44-34 win at New Buffalo on Saturday, Feb. 16.

“We played great defense tonight,” said Bridgman coach Mike Miller. “I’m really pleased with our presence with the basketball — very few turnovers tonight.”

The Bees had built a 21-10 half-time advantage and built their lead up to 13 points (23-10) early in the third period.

New Buffalo rallied to pull within five (23-18) as Ben O’Donnell hit a shot and Tucker Morse sank consecutive three-pointers.

Bridgman built its advantage back up to 29-18 thanks to scores by Luke Blesy (a pair of buckets) and Jackson Schmaltz. A late jumper from Henry Branch sent the Bees into the final frame with a 32-22 lead.

Schmaltz sank a pair of shots early in the fourth, but two three-point baskets from Morse had pulled the Bison within five points of the lead (37-32) with 2:41 remaining.

The Bees would allow just one more score (Nate Tripp Junior’s field goal in the late-going) while going 7-for-10 from the free-throw line.

“We just played really tough D,” Branch said. I’ve got to give credit to my teammates, we didn’t give anything easy to them on defense.”

Morse hit five of his team’s six three-pointers (Brennan Grott had the other “3”) and finished with a game-high 15 points. Colin Bendiner added 9 points.

Although the Bees didn’t sink a single three-point basket, their balanced attack included 13 points from Luke Blesy, 11 points by Schmaltz, Henry Branch’s 8 points and a 7-point showing by Alec Goff.

Both squads were coming off Friday night victories — New Buffalo swamped Lake Michigan Catholic 73-39 (Kaden Parmley scored 22 points while Morse had 21) while the Bees topped Parchment 49-40 in overtime.

Bridgman waited for its final home game to play some of its best basketball of the season. With a strong performance throughout the night and some late free throws in overtime, the Bees defeated Parchmen for a Berrien­ Cass-St. Joseph Conference Red Division victory.

“We’ve played really good defense all year, but tonight is probably the best we played on offense,” Miller said. “It was a great win.”

The Bees got out to an early run in over­time, starting with a 3-pointer by Luke Blesy. A free throw by Henry Branch and a bucket by Jackson Schmaltz put Bridg­man ahead 40-34.

Henry Knapp cut the lead for Parchment (4-5, 8-10) with his own 3-pointer with 1:19 to go. A foul by Connor Stutz sent Bridgman’s Alec Goff to the line where he made one of two free throws.

The Bees got another scoring chance thanks to a foul committed by Knapp on Schmaltz, who scored a pair of throws for a 43-37 advantage.

Jayce Warren helped secure the win, scoring four free throws in back-to-back trips to the line in the last 20 seconds of the game.

“We played really well,” Miller said. “I’m really proud of this team. They’ve show a lot of resiliency, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs with who can play and who can’t. We came out and did a good job on offense and played some good defense.”

Bridgman played its best defensively in the second quarter, holding Parchment to just a single basket. The Bees on the rebound battle 23-19, with Goff nabbing six boards and Schmaltz five.

Schmaltz led with a team-high 16 points, going 10 of 12 from the free throw line. Blesy scored 12 points and Warren had four, all from the line.

Knapp paced Parchment with 18 points. He scored five 3-pointers, including the tying score in the fourth quarter.

Thanks for your service

Longtime basketball official Randy Melvin was recognized for 45 years of service during a presentation before the boys varsity game.

This is his last season officiating high school basketball games.

“Last January I had the opportunity to work with Randy, which was a thrill for me as an official,” Bridgman Athletic Director Ken Schmaltz said. “He confided in me that this year was going to be year 45 and he going to hang it up after this year.

“I wanted to do something special for him.”

Schmaltz, along with Michigan High School Athletic Association Executive Director Mark Uyl, presented Melvin with a plaque. An announcement detailing his long career was given and met with standing applause.

“There aren’t many times where a referee gets a standing ovation,” Uyl said. “Randy has not just been a longtime official but one of the best longtime officials we’ve had. He’s worked a lot of state championship games and semifinal games at (Michigan State’s) Breslin Center.

“He’s going to leave a really big void.”

The presentation was special for Schmaltz, who leads the the MHSAA’s Legacy Student Officials Program at Bridgman. The program is designed to develop new officials as there is a growing shortage in Michigan.

“I remember as a player in high school and having Mr. Melvin as an official. We wanted to do something special for him on behalf of Bridgman schools because we know there is a shortage of officials across the state as well as the country,” Schmaltz said. “One thing we want to do is show we are supportive of officials.”

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