BRIDGMAN — Bridgman surprised Cassopolis with an impressive performance in a Saturday, Jan. 12, boys basketball game, but it wasn’t enough to upset the 8-1 Rangers, who hung on for a 60-53 victory.
“We did a lot of really good things tonight,” Bridgman coach Mike Miller said, “but I’m very disappointed that we lost, and I’m very disappointed that we gave up 16 offensive rebounds.”
Bridgman (4-6) led 16-15 after one quarter. Cassopolis used its pressure defense to start the second quarter on an 8-0 run and was ahead the rest of the way, but never by more than 10 points.
“Bridgman did a fantastic job,” Cassopolis coach Ricky Evans said. “We didn’t expect that. I thought Mike did a great job with his team.”
The Rangers took their largest lead of the game at 49-39 early in the fourth quarter on a Brayden Saxton dunk. Saxton was called for a technical for his celebration afterwards, and Luke Blesy hit one of the two foul shots for Bridgman.
Henry Branch then made a 3-pointer to cut the lead to six. Cassopolis responded with a 3 by Cerious Wilson, but Blesy then made a 3, was fouled and converted the free throw to make it 52-47.
The Bees remained in striking distance until the closing seconds, but couldn’t reduce the lead below four points.
Blesy finished with a team-high 18 points and Jackson Schmaltz added 16. Henry Branch scored 12, and he and Blesy hit four 3-pointers apiece.
“That’s the best we’ve run our offensive sets all year,” Miller said. “We’ve been a work in progress for a lot of reasons, but I’m proud of the way we played offense tonight.
“Jayce Warren, for a freshman point guard against Cassopolis and their pressure, did an outstanding job tonight. Luke Blesy played like a senior even though he’s a sophomore tonight, and that was really good to see. A lot of positives, but I don’t think we can be happy with a loss ever.”
Saxton led Cassopolis with 18 points, Tyrese Hunt-Thompson added 17, and Wilson and Darrion Gatson contributed 10 apiece.
The Rangers were at their best when their press forced Bridgman into turnovers, but struggled offensively when the Bees were able to keep the game slower.
“I didn’t think we played well,” Evans said. “We played defense pretty well, but offensively I thought we were selfish.”
Bridgman junior standout Hunter Adams, who hasn’t played this season due to a knee injury suffered during football, went through warmups with the team Saturday but did not play.
Miller said Adams has been cleared to return to practice, but does not know when he might be available to play in games.