BRIDGMAN — Two guards wearing No. 12 had big nights in the Division 3 boys basketball district opener between Bridgman and Marcellus on Tuesday, March 23.
The difference came under the basket, where a rebounding advantage helped Marcellus to a 53-47 victory.
"They have a size advantage, they have more experience," Bridgman coach Mike Miller said. "But that's no excuse for giving up 16 offensive rebounds. I think that was the difference in the game. I was very disappointed in our defensive rotations and our box outs."
Jayce Warren scored a game-high 24 points to lead Bridgman (7-5). Gavin Etter had 22 for Marcellus (11-6). Warren had 18 of his points in the first half and Etter had 13. Both players wear No. 12.
"You take their 12 and our 12, and put those two together, my gosh, they control the basketball game," Marcellus coach Troy Kahler said. "Both players are very good players. (Warren) is an incredible player, but I can't say enough about Gavin, he's been great for us all year long."
Marcellus held a 38-26 overall rebounding advantage, and its 16 offensive boards led to 22 second-chance points. Brady Ferguson had a game-high 16 rebounds for the Wildcats, but was held to six points, and Kahler was impressed with the Bees' ability to contain him.
"They have one of the best coaches in the area," Kahler said. "He's phenomenal. He knows everything you're doing inside and out. They scouted us well. That's the best that (Ferguson) has been defended. They doubled him non-stop all night long in the post. We like to run a lot of stuff getting him the ball and running off of him, and we couldn't get him the ball. The only time he could get the ball was on an offensive rebound."
The game was close throughout. Neither team led by more six at any point. Bridgman took its largest lead at 35-31 after a 7-0 run in the third quarter, and was still up 40-39 after three.
Bridgman's John Sanderson scored all 12 of his points in the second half, including a 3-pointer early in the fourth that put the Bees up 43-42.
That was their last lead. Drake Surach answered with a three for Marcellus. Bridgman's Dylan Reisig then tied the game at 45 with a putback, but a 3-pointer by Etter put Marcellus ahead for good.
A putback basket by Ferguson extended the margin to five, and the Wildcats were then able to control the clock and force Bridgman to foul.
Warren finished with nine rebounds and three steals to go along with his 24 points.
"If he's not all-state it will be a shame," Miller said. "He definitely had an outstanding season. His leadership qualities were amazing, he's our best defensive player, he also leads us in assists and steals, he's our second-leading rebounder. There's an all-around package with him, and of course he's obviously a very good offensive player."
Surach finished with 13 points and Andrew Brewer had 10 for Marcellus, which got all of its points from seniors. Bridgman's lone senior, Luke Blesy had seven points and 10 rebounds.
Miller was pleased with how his young team handled the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It was a bad season to have one senior because we didn't get a lot of practice time," Miller said. "We didn't have a lot of preseason time and there was no offseason. Despite all of that, I was proud of how our young kids stepped up. In the environment that they had, I think they did very well."
Girls reach semifinal
The Bridgman varsity girls team reached the district semifinal game by topping Cassopolis 43-40 on March 22.
Samantha Rydwelski scored 12 points for the Bees while Olivia Tomlin added 11.
Niles Brandywine ended Bridgman’s season in the March 24 semifinal by a 51-39 decision (the Bobcats were defeated by Hartford in the March 26 district title game).
Tomlin paced the Bees with 14 points while Rydwelski scored 9 and Arie Hackett tallied 8 points.