Edwardsburg beats Wildcats for Class B crown
PAW PAW — The smile on the face of Edwardsburg girls basketball coach Jon Pobuda Friday night expressed both joy and relief.
A year ago, he watched his Eddies fall in the Class B district championship game to Three Rivers, a team it had beaten twice during the regular season.
But Friday night when the same two teams competed for the same title, the Eddies parlayed defensive intensity into offensive execution, and gained redemption with a convincing 44-28 victory over the Lady Cats.
“It’s incredible. I’m not sure what would have happened if the role would have been reversed and we would have lost again. It’s been a long year,” Pobuda said.
“This year, from day one, we’ve been telling the girls, ‘One game at a time,’ but in my mind we’ve been playing for this game all year.”
“After all the hard work over the summer, it’s nice to finally get this championship and get redemption on them,” added junior Kaitlyn Zarycki, who scored a game-high 20 points. “I think my team deserved every bit of it, because we all work so hard.”
Edwardsburg (21-1) advances to the Class B regional tournament next week in Hopkins where it will face Allegan at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
Three Rivers turned the ball over on its first three possessions Friday night, and Edwardsburg assumed a lead it would never relinquish.
The Eddies turned nine first-quarter turnovers by Three Rivers into eight points and held a 13-6 lead after eight minutes had elapsed.
With a suffocating 2-3 zone defense that made it virtually impossible for Three Rivers to work the ball inside, Edwardsburg scored the first eight points of the second quarter.
The Eddies’ pressure effectively stymied Three Rivers’ sophomore standout, Hadley Miller, who converted just one of her nine first-half floor shots.
“We just did what we’ve done all year,” Pobuda said about his team’s defensive effort. “We didn’t say we want to stop this girl, or this girl, or this girl. We wanted to stop them all. That was our expectation coming into it.
“We wanted to keep on them all, contest everything, be in our spots, get our rotations and just play defense like we have all year.”
Three Rivers was sparked by freshman Alivia Knapp midway through the second quarter. Knapp came off the bench and scored seven straight points to fuel a 12-2 run, but Edwardsburg took a 25-16 lead at halftime.
Zarycki scored 10 points, including six free throws, during the third quarter and the Eddies extended their lead to 37-24 heading into the final eight minutes.
Three Rivers opened the fourth quarter with five straight missed floor shots and Edwardsburg played keep-away for a good portion of the final frame after opening with seven unanswered points.
“We knew we were going to have to rebound the basketball real well, play well in the half court and make some special plays,” Three Rivers coach Jason Bingaman said. “We were able to hang around a little bit, but we just weren’t able to get consecutive good looks.
“A lot of that had to do with their pressure, a lot of that had to do with us not getting to spots we needed to, consistently, and they were able to make plays.”
Sophomore Abbey Krugh complemented Zarycki’s offensive performance with 15 points of her own, and Edwardsburg shot 33.3 percent afield (14 of 42).
Freshman Kali Heivilin scored a team-high nine point and grabbed a co-team-high eight rebounds for Three Rivers. Miller finished with just five points.
“She’s a great player; great shooter,” Zarycki said about Miller. “Me and Alexa (Markel) had to work our butts off to try and stop her.”
Three Rivers shot 32.4 percent from the field (12 of 37) and outrebounded Edwardsburg by a 31-26 margin.
Edwardsburg forced Three Rivers into 25 turnovers and scored 19 points following the miscues by the Lady Cats.