Cassopolis holds off Bobcats for Class C district title

Published 8:40 am Monday, March 12, 2018

WATERVLIET — When asked what brought his team to the Class C championship win, Cassopolis head coach Rick Evans had just one word: determination.

In an exhilarating game Friday night at Watervliet, the Rangers’ third quarter break-away led them to an 81-74 win over Brandywine, who ends the season 16-7.

But it wasn’t just an overall team effort in the second half that carried Cass the victory. A stellar performance from junior Tyrese Hunt-Thompson proved why the Rangers remain undefeated.

He scored 18 points alone in the third quarter, including a lay-up at the buzzer which erupted a roar of cheers from fans and gave the Rangers one of their biggest leads of the night – 65-55.

That spark carried Cassopolis into the fourth, and although Brandywine came within five points of the lead halfway through the period (70-65), the Rangers extended it back to 10 in the blink of an eye and never looked back.

Thompson ended the night with an eye-widening 37 points.

“My team had a lot to do with that (the points),” Hunt-Thompson said. “They pushed me to be the best I could be tonight and this is all from them.”

He also acknowledged Brandywine and said they gave his team one of the best challenges they had seen all season.

“They never stopped playing,” he said. “They kept going at us and pushed us to our limits. They were tough.”

Brandywine coach Nathan Knapp knew once that fire started for Cass’ offense, things would change.

“When they’re shooting like they were tonight, they’re very tough to defend,” Knapp said.

For much of the first half, there was no telling who would end up champions. 

The Bobcats put on one of their best performances of the season, landing a quick lead shortly after tipoff and taking an 18-15 advantage into the second quarter.

By halftime, Cass went ahead 41-35 after trailing or tying for most of the quarter. Evans admitted he was nervous for a while.

“Yes, I got concerned in the first half and told my guys they were ready to battle,” he said. “I knew this was going to be one of the toughest games of the season because this is a Nate Knapp team. They’re never easy to play. I just told my guys they were going to fight until the end and once they realized Brandywine wasn’t going away, we finally matched their intensity.”

Brandywine loses five seniors — Kyle Barnett, Dalton Knapp, Brendon Alvord, David Bagwell and Toby Latislaw.

“It’s going to be tough to replace five seniors.” Knapp said. “These are all great kids who come to practice every day with their heads up and they get us ready for these big games. I don’t even want to look ahead right now because we were just starting to put things together and a lot of that had to do with these seniors. Their leadership, their hard work … some big shoes to fill.”

Cassopolis, now 23-0, will play at 7:15 p.m. Monday night in Constantine against Homer.