The Class C No. 8 Lutheran High Northeast boys battled from 11 points down to force overtime, then made key defensive stops, hit clutch shots and made their free throws down the stretch to defeat Battle Creek 56-51 on Thursday at the Andrews Activity Center on the Lutheran High campus.
Earlier in the evening, the Battle Creek girls had a surprisingly easy time in defeating Lutheran High 61-42.
"I didn't think we played great," Lutheran High boys coach Kenny Blank said. "Offensively, we had a lot of turnovers, a little bit self-induced, a little bit of what Battle Creek did; they played some good defense. But, you know, sometimes you've just got to win ugly, and tonight was one of those nights."
Lutheran High jumped out to an 8-2 lead early and led 10-6 at the end of one. The Eagles then stretched the lead to eight after breaking a full-court press. Cort McKeown's layup made the score 19-11.
Battle Creek then answered with an 11-0 run to end the half. Hunter Oestreich made one of two free throws with 18 seconds left to put the Braves in front 22-19 at the break.
The boys from Fightin' River came out on fire to start the third quarter. Tait Heimes and Oestreich both drained 3s and Brock West scored in the paint to give the purple and gold its biggest advantage of the night, 30-19.
"We just had to keep fighting," Blank said. "Nothing was easy tonight offensively or defensively. But we just kept battling, we kept sticking together, kept going at ’em and eventually some good things started to happen for us."
McKeown began to find success in the block with back-to-back buckets late in the third. His second brought the Eagles to within three, 32-29, with 1:54 on the clock.
"Kenny's always told me just to post up since I'm a big guy and just tonight he told me to keep posting up," McKeown said.
The Braves followed with an 8-2 run. Oestreich's 3 with 17 seconds left put Battle Creek up 40-32, but the Eagles answered when 5-foot-7 Trystan Scott drove the lane and scored with a layup at the buzzer to make it a six-point game going into the final eight minutes of regulation.
"Some of us are dealing with sickness, but we played tough and we didn't stop," McKeown said.
Battle Creek clung to the lead in the fourth, but Keaton Ranslem's 3 had the Eagles within one at 45-44 with 3:44 left.
Then on the other end, Oestreich was fouled on a 3-point attempt. He had a chance to give the Braves a two-possession lead but made just one of the three free throws.
That was a key moment in the game, as was a foul on the Braves' Roger Mieure with 1:11 to play. The infraction sent the 6-5 center to the bench with his fifth foul. Battle Creek's other post, Rich Brauer, was out with an ankle injury, and McKeown took advantage.
He drew a foul in the paint and made one of two free throws to make it 46-45, then went 1-for-2 again with 28 seconds left to tie it at 46.
"(McKeown's) obviously our go-to guy and he creates some mismatches for people so we wanted to get him inside and that's kind of our M.O. That's kind of what we like to do, and he did a good job of being aggressive in there," Blank said.
Both teams made good defensive plays in the final 28 seconds and took a 46-all tie into overtime.
"I was happy to get it to overtime," Blank said, "especially how much we trailed there. It would have been nice to hit some free throws at the end of the fourth to win it but, honestly, I was pretty relieved to have four more minutes to take the lead."
Battle Creek's Heimes opened the extra period with a 3-point bucket, but Lutheran High's Scott answered with a running jumper on the other end to pull the Eagles within one.
McKeown later sank two free throws with 2:13 to play to give Lutheran High its first lead since 19-18 in the second quarter.
The Eagles followed that with steals on the next two Battle Creek possessions. Ranslem's bucket in the paint made it 52-49, and Scott's free throw made it a two-possession game with 52 seconds to play.
A Boden Obst layup off an assist from Baron Buckendahl pulled the Braves within two with 25 seconds left, but Lutheran High answered with three of four free throws in the final 21 seconds to put the seal on a hard-fought 56-51 victory.
"Tait hit a shot, put us up three and I liked our chances at that point," Battle Creek coach Matt Rudloff said. "But we couldn't stop No. 5 (McKeown) with our big out. I think, at the end, we played not to lose instead of to win. It's a tough one to swallow."
McKeown finished with a game-high 23 points for the Eagles.
The win improved the Eagles to 11-1 while the Braves dropped to 5-7. Both teams are back in action on Tuesday as Lutheran High entertains Class C No. 2 Clarkson/Leigh and Battle Creek is at West Point to battle Guardian Angels Central Catholic.
"We've got to keep fighting and working," Rudloff said. "That's a tough team that only had one loss, but we were right there. We're pretty hungry for a win right now, so we've got to keep the boys' heads up because the schedule doesn't get much easier from here out."
THE GIRLS GAME was less dramatic. Both teams came into the contest with 5-7 records, but Battle Creek was clearly the better team from the outset.
The Bravettes led 15-10 after one quarter, 37-21 at the half and 49-30 after three en route to a 61-42 triumph.
Battle Creek post Reagan Brummels had a stellar performance with 20 points while teammates Paytyn Taake added 12 and Samantha Wemhoff 11.
"We started off in that full-court man-to-man pressure and got some turnovers early in the game and were able to build a little bit of a cushion that we relied on for the rest of the game," Battle Creek coach Kobe Lade said.
"We've been battling from behind, and it's so much easier to play when you're the team that has the lead and you don't have to expend all of that energy clawing back in the ball game."
Mia Furst's 16 was tops for the Eagles while Mia Wiederin added 10.
Lutheran High coach Mike Wiederin said transition baskets played a key role in the outcome.
"We weren't getting layups like they were getting," he said.
"But it would have been easy to quit and we didn't quit. We stayed in there and in that fourth quarter we were down to 13 (51-38) and we still had a chance there. We just needed someone to step up and nobody stepped up tonight."
BC 15 22 12 12 — 61
LHNE 10 11 9 12 — 42
BATTLE CREEK (6-7): Hailey Hurlburt 0 0-2 0; Lindsey Bolling 1 0-0 3; Lily Knull 1 4-6 6; Addisyn Taake 1 0-1 2; Paytyn Taake 3 5-6 12; Madeline Oltmanns 0 2-2 2; Mya Zohner 0 1-2 1; Samantha Wemhoff 4 3-4 11; Reagan Brummels 9 2-8 20; Joslyn Hrabanek 2 0-0 4. Totals 21 17-31 61.
LUTHERAN HIGH NORTHEAST (5-8): Kealy Ranslem 2 0-0 4; Kendra Petersen 1 0-0 3; Avery Koeppe 1 0-0 2; Mia Furst 5 6-8 16; Faith Baumgartel 1 0-0 2; Sophia Wolff 1 0-0 3; Mia Wiederin 4 0-0 10; Tristan Buss 0 2-2 2. Totals 15 8-10 42.
BC 6 16 18 6 5 — 51
LHNE 10 9 15 12 10 — 56
BATTLE CREEK (5-7): Tait Heimes 3 3-5 11; Brock West 5 2-3 14; Roger Mieure 1 0-0 2; Cameron Blain 1 0-0 3; Baron Buckendahl 0 3-4 3; Hunter Oestreich 4 2-5 12; Boden Obst 2 2-3 6. Totals 16 12-20 51.
LUTHERAN HIGH NORTHEAST (11-1): Trystan Scott 5 1-2 13; Cort McKeown 7 9-13 23; Josh Rojas 2 0-0 4; Keaton Ranslem 5 4-5 16. Totals 19 14-20 56.