By: Seth Kinker, email@example.com
The Manchester Flying Dutchmen boys basketball team (11-10) saw its season come to an end on Mar. 1 in Grass Lake at the hands of the Jackson Lumen Christi Titans in a Division 3 District title game 56-40.
The Dutchmen were going for their first district title since 2011 and had to do so with limited minutes for senior forward Devon Kelly who reaggravated a right ankle injury in their semifinal win on Feb. 27 and was a last-minute game time decision. He played, but only sparingly as the injury clearly was causing him discomfort.
Kelly would’ve drawn the assignment against Titan senior forward Dayton Keller who had 21 points in their Feb. 27 semifinal victory over Grass Lake. In the end, the interior presence of Thomas wore down the Dutchmen as they struggled to find a groove offensively.
After their semfinal win on Feb. 27 the whole team stayed to find out who their opponent would be, scouting both teams.
“We knew they were a well disciplined team, patient, well coached,” said Dutchmen head coach Mike Ahrens, who in his first year improved the teams record from 7-14 last season to 11-10 this season. “We knew defense would have to win the game, we didn’t have the offensive punch. We went to the spread offense to try and slow it down a bit. We wanted to dictate pace of game which we didnt do. We needed everyone to step up a bit.”
After the first quarter the Dutchmen trailed 10-7. The teams traded baskets early before a runner from Dutchmen junior guard Ty Horky made it 9-7 with 30 seconds left in the first. Keller answered, drawing a foul with six seconds left and going 1-2 from the line.
Dutchmen junior forward Braeden Caszatt drew the assignment of guarding Keller with Kelly limited and he picked up two first quarter fouls as Keller looked to establish paint position and get to the rim.
In the second quarter both offenses struggled early with most of the points not coming until the quarter was halfway over. With just under four minutes left and having returned from his first break in the action, Keller went on a 7-3 run by himself as the Titans stretched their lead to 24-13.
By halftime, the Titans had built a 28-15 lead. Caszatt and Dutchmen freshman forward Aiden Kelly, who was the other big man that needed to step in and fill the production of his older brother, both had three fouls as Keller scored 11 of the Titans 18 points.
Turnovers throughout the night led to Titan buckets with the Dutchmen pushing the ball but having trouble with the second and third pass that led to transition opportunities for the Titans. The Dutchmen finished with 16 turnovers in the game as their go to scorer, Horky, was hounded by double teams and denied the ball all night.
At halftime the talk was about shoring up the defense, playing smart with no fouls.
Coming out of the break, A. Kelly picked up his fourth foul right away, further hindering their ability to guard the post. The Titans continued to work the ball inside and Caszatt, already in foul trouble himself, couldn’t play too tight of defense with the worry of picking up his fourth foul.
A 7-3 Titan run to start the second half put them up 35-18. The Dutchmen tried switching to their full court press but to no avail as the Titans had a 47-30 lead after the third. Keller had eight points in the third and led all scorers with 23 points on the night. The Dutchmen scored 13 points in the third but only had two field goals.
“I thought their defense got us out of our offensive rhythm,” said Ahrens. “The little bit they pressed, and they had a half court press. A very physical team, we just gotta learn to play with that.”
In the final frame a Horky three would cut the Titan lead to 51-37 with under five minutes left but that was as close as they would get as the game ended 56-40.
Horky led the Dutchmen with 22 points and broke his second school record of the year, this one being the school single season point record. The 1990 record was at 515 and Horky entered thee game needing 19 to beat it. Earlier this season he broke the Dutchmen single season scoring record by dropping 47 points.
Dutchmen senior guard River Spitler had 9 poiints, junior forward Braeden Caszatt had 2 points, sophomore forward Ryan Mann had 1 point, senior forward Devon Kelly had 1 point, junior Joe Rogowski had 2 points and A. Kelly had 3 points.
After the game Ahrens spoke to his team about perspective and how proud of the team he was in his first year at the helm.
“Everyone wants to end season on a win, only four teams do,” said Ahrens. “We’ve come a long way since July 1, a long way with fundamentals and taking defensive pride. They learned to fight back when teams made runs on us. I’m very very pleased. I couldn’t ask for a better group of seniors. They went above and beyond and were good role models, all of them gave me 110 percent all season. They understood the underclassmen were watching, learning, and listening.”
By: Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org