Vikings fall to BearcatsPublished 11:10pm Thursday, March 1, 2012
A celebration took place before Thursday’s boys basketball game between Niles and Battle Creek Central as the Viking seniors were honored before the regular season finale.
The mood in the gym quickly changed after the tip-off.
The Bearcats spoiled the evening for the Vikings, defeating Niles, 75-67, in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference action.
Shooting woes and defensive lapses plagued Niles throughout as Battle Creek Central never trailed and were able to hold off a frantic Vikings’ rally in the fourth quarter.
“In our losses this year we haven’t shot very well from behind the 3-point line,” said Niles coach Todd Pawielski, whose team finishes the regular season with a mark of 16-4. “Tonight, we also weren’t very good defensively. We had trouble staying in front and we didn’t rebound the ball very well.”
The Bearcats, who improved to 12-8, shot 52 percent from the field (32-of-61) and outrebounded the Vikings, 38-29. Niles shot only 37 percent from the field (22-of-59), including 26 percent (7-of-27) in the first half.
After Niles got a three-point play from Myles Busby to tie the game at 7, Battle Creek Central outscored Niles, 36-16, the remainder of the first half. The Bearcats scored the final eight points of the first half with Mohammed Albagami and Nathan Taylor connecting on 3-pointers to start the run. Battle Creek Central made seven of its eight 3-pointers in the first half. Niles had only one 3-pointer in the first half.
“We shot it well tonight,” said Battle Creek Central coach Greg Williams.
Taylor, who came in averaging 17 points a game, scored 20 of his 29 points in the first half.
“He’s been knocking down shots all year long,” Williams said. “He’s a veteran (senior), who’s athletic.”
The ease in which Battle Creek Central scored in the first shocked Pawielski.
“Giving up 43 points in the first half is unbelievable,” Pawielski said. “It’s very difficult to come back from a half like that.”
But the Vikings almost did.
Trailing 56-38 after three quarters, Niles pulled within 71-67 with 1:34 left in the game after getting a 3-pointer from Matthew McLaughlin. Niles was 9-of-12 from the field in the fourth quarter after McLaughlin’s 3.
The Vikings had a chance to pull even closer after Battle Creek Central’s Trevin Alexander missed two free throws with 1:14 remaining. But Niles was unable to convert on the offensive end. McLaughlin missed a 3-pointer and the Vikings turned the ball over on the next possession. The turnover turned into a basket for the Bearcats’ Nathan Taylor with :45 left in the game.
Trailing 73-67, McLaughlin was fouled on a 3-point attempt with :11 left. But McLaughlin was unable to convert at the line. Diante Taylor scored with :05 left for the Bearcats to conclude the game’s scoring.
McLaughlin scored 18 of his 20 points and connected on all four of his 3-pointers in the second half. Taylor Campbell added 15 points and eight rebounds and Busby contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds. Austin Parks rounded out Niles’ double figure scorers with 10 points.
“Matthew is the heart and soul of this team and he showed that in the second half,” Pawielski said. “He hit some big shots.”
Pawielski was asked if his team was still thinking about last Friday’s loss to Kalamazoo Central (64-61 in overtime for the SMAC West Division title) or looking ahead to Monday’s district opener against the Maroon Giants.
“I thought we had pretty good focus tonight,” the Niles coach said. “Central I thought played very well. They really ran the floor well and scrapped. They hit 3-point shots early. I think they were 7-of-13 in the first half and we dug a hole.
“In the second half, we came out fighting and showed the team that we are. But, we just have to sprint a little harder and play harder on defense or it’s going to be a real quick March.”
BATTLE CREEK CENTRAL 75
Diante Taylor 8 0-2 17, Nathan Taylor 12 3-5 29, Trevin Alexander 5 0-2 10, Mohammed Albagami 4 0-0 12, Joe Bowser 3 0-2 7, Mafiaion Joyner 0 0-0 0, Aaron Hunter 0 0-0 0, Phillip Robinson 0 0-0 0, Travis Skidmore 0 0-0 0, Khylen Watkis 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 32 3-11 75
Myles Busby 4 5-7 14, Quintin Irby 0 1-2 1, Austin Parks 4 1-2 10, Taylor Campbell 5 5-7 15, Matthew McLaughlin 6 4-8 20, Logan Harpenau 2 0-1 5, Alex Brown 1 0-1 2. TOTALS: 22 16-28 67
Battle Creek 21 43 56 75
Niles 12 23 38 67
3-point baskets: Battle Creek 8 (Albagami 4, N. Taylor 2, Bowser, D. Taylor), Niles 7 (McLaughlin 4, Busby, Parks, Harpenau). Total fouls (fouled out): Battle Creek 20 (none), Niles 14 (none). Shooting: Battle Creek 32-of-61 for 52-percent, Niles 22-of-59 for 37-percent. Rebounding: Battle Creek 38 (D. Taylor 12), Niles 29 (Busby 10). Turnovers: Battle Creek 18, Niles 11. Varsity records: Battle Creek 12-8, Niles 16-4