BRIDGMAN — Bridgman High School boys basketball coach Mike Miller was impressed with his team’s defensive performance following a Friday, Jan. 3, game against rival River Valley.
The Bees outscored the Mustangs 18-4 in the fourth quarter to earn a 47-36 win over the previously unbeaten squad.
“I was really proud of the kids,” Miller said. “We had a horrible offensive first half; We shot poorly and made a lot of unforced errors. Coach (Justin) Hahaj made a defensive adjustment for us early in the third quarter and that made a big difference.
“Nate Necas gave us a big spark off the bench tonight,” he added. Trailing 32-29 entering the fourth quarter, the Bees (4-2) turned up the defensive intensity and forced turnovers that led to easy scoring opportunities. After taking a 38-33 lead following a Jayce Warren 3-pointer midway through the period, the Bees opted to possess the ball to limit River Valley’s offensive chances.
The Mustangs were forced to foul late, which put Bridgman in the bonus. The Bees converted 11 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter and had a 21-2 edge in free throw attempts over River Valley.
“I thought we competed,” River Valley coach Jason Heckathorn said. “We didn’t execute down the stretch. I thought our effort was enough to keep us in the game. We were in a position to win but couldn’t finish.
“Give Bridgman credit, they’re a strong team.” Luke Blesy led Bridgman with 11 points while Hunter Adams and Henry Branch scored 10 points apiece. Nate Necas scored two points, but his defensive impact on the game far exceeded the box score.
“Coming into the game, coach told me that I would be pressing the point guard the entire time I was out there,” Nate Necas said. “That’s what I did and I was able to get some steals off that and make some stuff happen.”
Lennon Lange, Jacob Barbour, and Will Korbel tallied 11 points apiece for River Valley. The Mustangs may no longer be unbeaten, but their hopes for a BCS White title are alive and well.
“Our main goal was to challenge and win our conference,” Heckathorn said. “We still have a lot to clean up by I saw some things tonight we can definitely build upon. We’re still focused on the goals we set at the beginning of the year. It was disappointing to lose, but it’s good to compete against a team like that.”