BENTON HARBOR — The New Buffalo High School girls varsity basketball team rolled to 54-9 victory over Countryside Academy on Friday, Dec. 7, in its 2018-19 opener.
The Bison boys had a tougher task against the host Cougars.
New Buffalo ended up eking out a 65-62 win after a late Countryside three-point attempt rimmed out.
New Buffalo’s girls squad got first-quarter scores from Abby Vitale, Clair Workman, Olivia Haskins, Kaitlyn Biela and Nadia Collins to lead 14-3 (an early three-pointer from Yneisha Washington gave the home team an early 3-2 advantage).
By half-time the margin had grown to 27-7 (among those scoring in the second stanza were Alilyn Purcell, Rachel Hoffstetter, Ally Smith, Workman, Collins and Haskins.
Stellar the entire game, New Buffalo’s defense limited the Cougars to just four points in the third quarter, zero in the fourth, and forced numerous turnovers throughout the contest.
Countryside played solid defense as well, making the Bison work for their scores.
New Buffalo coach Curtis Brewster didn’t shoot well in the first half and missed a lot of layups. The offense played better in the second half.
“They forced every shot for us,” he noted.
Vitale led the way for New Buffalo with 16 points. Mary Mayer scored 9 points while Purcell and Biela each tallied 7 points.
The Bison upped their record to 2-0 by edging Countryside in a back-and-forth battle that wasn’t decided until the final buzzer had sounded.
Tucker Morse had an eight-point first quarter for New Buffalo, but the Cougars kept pace. Baskets by four different players (including a late three-pointer from Travariae Favorite) left the Bison up by a single point (15-14) at the end of quarter number one.
Brennan Grott scored twice early in the second period to boost the NB lead to 19-14, but Countryside stormed back to forge a 21-all tie thanks to buckets from Favorite and Marcus Broadway.
Broadway later hit his second three of the period to help the home team build a 29-23 margin, but the Bison surged back on to 30-29 as Morse and Grott connected from three-point land.
A late score by Kaden Parmley left New Buffalo ahead 32-31 at the half.
The third stanza featured more of the same, with the lead changing hands four times — the last on a Parmley three-point play and Morse’s buzzer-beating scoop shot that gave the Bison a 49-47 lead heading into the fourth period.
Morse was red hot at the start of the final frame, reeling off seven straight points to forge a 56-48 advantage with 5:20 remaining.
But Countryside answered, as they had all night, with three-pointers from Favorite and Rae’Shaun Walters whittling the lead down to a point (57-56).
With the score knotted at 59-all, Colin Bendiner grabbed a loose ball that sailed over the hoop for two big points with 2:49 showing on the clock.
“I just saw the ball and I went up there to get it,” he later said.
The Bison held on to the lead until the 1:32 mark when Jamere Matlock nocked down a clutch “3” to lift the Cougars on top 62-61.
Morse answered loudly 27 seconds hence with a three-pointer of his own.
Morse would later go 1-for-2 at the foul line with just 8.8 ticks to the clock left, setting up a final chance for Countryside.
Walters got off an on-target three-point attempt that was half-way down the cylinder before it spun its way back out.
“There was a lot of electricity in the gym tonight,” noted New Buffalo coach Nate Tripp, who added that the call was to foul Countryside on the final play.
He said Countryside was ready to play and whether the Bison went zone of man defense the Cougars were able to counter it.
Morse had a game-high 24 points. Parmley and Grott each scored 11 points, Ben O’Donnell contributed 10 points, and Bendiner added 8.
Favorite paced a balanced Countryside attack with 15 points.
New Buffalo won the JV game 57-52.