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By: Seth Kinker, skinker@thesuntimesnews.com

The Manchester Dutchmen Boys basketball team (11-9) advanced to a Division 3 District title game after a win on Feb. 27 over the Vandercook Lake Jayhawks (11-10), 61-54 at Grass Lake High School.

These two teams are no strangers, as members of the Cascades conference they meet twice a year and this year they split those meetings with both teams winning at home.

For the Dutchmen, the focus was trying to stay in front of Jayhawks senior forward Darrius Dukes, who led the team in scoring in the first two matchups. Offensively, 53 of their 61 points came from three players; Junior guard Ty Horky (24), junior forward Braeden Caszatt (14) and senior forward Devon Kelly (15).

The big question mark after the Feb. 27 win had to do with Kelly, who reaggravated a right ankle injury early in the fourth quarter and did not return. After the game Dutchmen head coach Mike Ahrens said Kelly was questionable for the district title game on Mar. 1. 

After trading baskets early, the Dutchmen took the lead with under three minutes to go in the first quarter on a Caszatt basket to make it 9-8. Including that basket, the Dutchmen went on a 9-2 run to take a 16-10 lead after one.

The second quarter began like the first, with the teams trading baskets and the Dutchmen lead hovering around ten but never breaking double digits. As the quarter slowly progressed, Dukes began to see success on both ends of the floor. He had 8 of the 10 Jayhawk second quarter points and got to the rim. 

Kelly stopped the bleeding going one for two from the line after drawing a foul that was the start of a 7-0 run that gave them a 30-20 halftime lead. 

Ahrens told The Sun Times he touched on their first half scoring runs in the post-game talk. Earlier in the year, teams had been making runs on them and as the year has gone on Ahrens said the team has done a better job of shortening opponents runs and going on runs of their own.

In the third quarter the Jayhawks were led by senior guard Torrey Higgs with six points and freshman forward Verlandez Williams with five points as they cut the Dutchmen lead to seven after three quarters, 40-33. Horky and Kelly combined for 8 of the 10 points for the Dutchmen with each having baskets to answer Higgs and Williams. 

Kelly started the fourth quarter aggressively, getting to the lane for a lay-up early and to the line on the next two possession after that. Then with 5:32 in the game he went up to block a shot and came down on his right ankle, which he’s injured and reinjured over the years. After remaining down on the court for a few minutes, he was helped to his feet and over to the trainer’s table and did not return.

A key sequence with 4:10 left got Dukes his fourth foul, Caszatt had one of his four blocks on Dukes, secured a defensive rebound, and was fouled by Dukes. That foul also put the Jayhawks in the double bonus. 

An and one plus the free throw stretched the Dutchmen lead to 52-37.

Then with 1:53 left and the Dutchmen leading by nine, Horky split a double team, rose and fired a pass baseline to a wide-open Caszatt, who made the layup and drew the fifth foul on Dukes.

The Jayhawks then went on a 7-0 run as the Dutchmen missed free throws to make it 56-51 with under a minute to go. 

After a free throw by the Dutchmen, Jayhawk junior guard Andrew Frohm made a corner three with around thirty seconds left to cut the lead back to 57-54.

Two free throws from Horky with 24 seconds left, a defensive rebound by Dutchmen freshman Aiden Kelly, and two free throws from Dutchmen senior guard River Spitler made the final 61-54.

Horky finished with 24 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds, Kelly finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds, and Caszatt finished with 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 blocks.

After the game, Ahrens, his staff, and his players stayed to watch Grass Lake and Jackson Lumen Christi, who they’ll play the winner of on Mar. 1 at 7 p.m. at Grass Lake High School.

“We bounced back,” said Ahrens on the win. “That’s what basketball is, a game of runs. You got to shorten theirs and lengthen yours. I was really pleased with our first tournament game.” 

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