Chieftains top Rams in tune up for postseason
Published 9:49 am Monday, February 25, 2019
DOWAGIAC — The Dowagiac boys basketball team tuned up for the postseason with a 68-64 win over visiting South Haven in its Wolverine Conference crossover game Thursday night.
The Chieftains finished the regular season at 11-9 and will now set their sights on the Division 2 district tournament, which it hosts, beginning tonight.
Dowagiac will be without one of its top players for the remainder of the season as D.J. Lanier suffered a fractured elbow in the Chieftains’ game against Coloma Feb. 16.
The Chieftains could be down another player as Cailyn Murphy sustained a sprained ankle blocking a shot late in Dowagiac’s win over the Rams. His status will not be known until game time tonight.
Dowagiac will play the second game of the doubleheader against Wolverine Conference foe Three Rivers. The Chieftains and the Wildcats split a pair of Wolverine Conference games.
Three Rivers won on its home court 71-69, while Dowagiac won the rematch 63-54.
Chieftain coach Danum Hunt knows his team is going to have to play its best to advance past the Wildcats, especially having to pick up the slack for the loss of Lanier, who did not play in the first meeting between the two schools.
“Murphy went down with the ankle sprain, but I think he will be ready to go,” he said. “We will work on him over the weekend. We will let him rest tomorrow (Saturday). It is unfortunate that we will not have Lanier back, but it is the next man up. A lot of different guys stepped up tonight and proved they would play out there.”
One player in particular stepped up for the Chieftains and that was Trae Brookins, who came off the bench to score a game-high 31 points, which included all seven of Dowagiac’s 3-pointers.
Brookins has been in and out of the Chieftains’ starting lineup this season. Both agree that he performs better when he comes off the bench.
“I think I play better off the bench,” Brookins said following the game. “Coming off the bench I get the feeling of the game. But I am going to need to step up and be a leader. Once I see my first three go in I know it is going to be a good night.”
Brookins said he was not concerned with how many shots were falling or where they were coming from, he was more concerned with helping his team pick up a victory.
“I just wanted to help us win, so I just did what I had to do.”
Hunt was impressed with his junior’s performance.
“Trae shot the ball really well tonight,” he said. “I do not know, maybe I need to keep Trae coming off the bench because every time he comes off the bench he puts on a big display of shooting. Maybe that is his thing, Maybe he needs to see the game first.”
South Haven (9-9) got out of the gates quickly, grabbing a 6-0 lead before Dowagiac settled into its game. The Rams led just 14-13 after one quarter.
Dowagiac shifted its offense into high gear behind Brookins’ shooting and outscored South Haven 22-2 in the second quarter to take a 50-16 lead into halftime.
The Chieftains kept their foot on the gas in the third quarter and increased its advantage to 50-35 heading into the final eight minutes of the regular season.
Hunt said his team got a little lazy on defense in the fourth quarter and allowed the Rams to close the gap, but was able to hold off South Haven down the stretch.
Besides Brookins, Dowagiac also got 13 points from Murphy. Shaquan Stanback and Donovan Sullivan each finished with seven points.
Zander Russell led South Haven with 17 points. Brenden Williamson added 15.
In the first game of tonight’s Division 2 district doubleheader, Edwardsburg will face Vicksburg at 5 p.m. in a battle of Wolverine Conference foes.
The Eddies (8-11) swept the Bulldogs during the regular season, winning 50-41 in overtime and 50-44.