By: Seth Kinker, email@example.com
It’s been “a while” since the last time the Manchester Flying Dutchmen, 10-9 (6-8), swept the Napoleon Pirates, 9-9 (7-7), according to assistant coach Mike Coltre but on Feb. 21 the Dutchmen did just that.
On senior night the Dutchmen came away with a 65-59 victory. In their first meeting, the Dutchmen won 62-57 pulling away late at that free throw line to clutch the game and on Feb. 21 it was a similar ending.
After trading baskets early in an up-tempo game from the tip the Pirates started to hit their shots. They hit six three pointers and out rebounded the Dutchmen early to take a 25-17 first quarter lead.
Pirate junior guard Tobin McCrum led the Pirates in points in their first meeting with the Dutchmen and did it again on Thursday. He had nine points in the first and finished with a team high 18.
The main reason for his production drop-off after the first quarter was Dutchmen junior guard Ty Horky, who is friends with McCrum. Horky held McCrum to nine points after the first including zero points in the fourth. Horky himself led all scorers with 25 points, right on pace with his season average.
Horky and senior forward Devon Kelly combined for 13 of the 17 Dutchmen first quarter points.
After the first meeting between the two teams, Dutchmen head coach Mike Ahrens said the game plan was the same with a focus on perimeter defense and staying aggressive offensively attacking the hoop.
In the second quarter, Ahrens told The Sun Times it was just a matter of the team getting aggressive as they outscored the Pirates 19-10 to take a one points 36-35 halftime lead.
“I used a boxing analogy (with the guys). When a team slugs us, the first half of the season we didn’t do a good job fighting back,” said Ahrens. “The last 3-4 games we rally when a team makes a run on us, instead of 6-8 points its only 4-6. We say, ‘we got to fight back, we took one on the chin, lets slug back.’”
Dutchmen junior forward Braeden Caszatt had the first five Dutch points of the quarter as the Dutchmen started the second on a 10-0 run. They took their lead with around four minutes left in the half.
Caszatt ended up with nine points in the second and finished with 18 points in one of his best offensive outings of the season. Caszatt and Kelly also combined for seven rebounds in the second.
Kelly added 10 points as the Dutchmen had three players with double digits.
At halftime the focus was on rebounding, many of the Pirate points came as a result of second or third chance opportunities.
In the second half the Pirates started on a 6-0 run before a Caszatt baseline jumper brought them within one, 41-40. The Dutchmen then responded with a run of their own, a 10-2 run as they took a 50-45 lead into the fourth.
Another Pirate run cut the Dutchmen lead to one with five minutes left. With 3:24, Dutchmen senior guard River Spitler drove to the rim, hit the layup, drew the foul, and hit the foul shots to stretch the Dutchmen lead back to four, 58-54.
“I’m so proud of River,” said Ahrens on Spitler, who finished with eight points. “The first ten games or so he would never take the ball and drive hard. He’s been doing it more and more because he has confidence.”
After a Horky free throw Pirate sophomore Alex Darnell hit a three, which Horky responded to on the next trip down the floor. The Dutchmen then hit their free throws to come away with the 65-59 victory.
Before the game the Dutchmen celebrated their seniors, Devon Kelly, Luther Westcott, Tommy McNutt-Tremblay, and River Spitler. Ahrens credited them with accepting him and his philosophies when he was hired last July.
“I implemented a lot of basketball they hadn’t seen before and they were like sponges,” said Ahrens. “No resistance, hungry to learn, their mental toughness has improved. They are excellent role models of the program I’m trying to build here. They have a work ethic, makes my job a lot easier.”
On Feb. 27 the Dutchmen travel to Grass Lake for districts, playing either Vandercook or Napoleon.