Division 2: District tournament opens with pair of nail biters

Published 1:25 pm Tuesday, March 7, 2023

NILES — A pair of nail biters kicked off the Division 2 Boys District Basketball Tournament at Niles High School Monday night.

In the first semifinal, Lakeland Conference foes Dowagiac and Buchanan battled down to the final seconds with the Bucks edging the Chieftains 45-44 to advance to Wednesday night’s semifinal against top-seeded Benton Harbor.

In the nightcap Monday night, the host Vikings nearly let a lead slip away from it in the final minutes before a steal by Mike Phillips sealed the victory for the Vikings, who move on to face No.-seeded Berrien Springs in the second semifinal on Wednesday.


Dowagiac vs. Buchanan

The third time was almost a charm for the Chieftains, who were swept by the Bucks during the regular-season, losing both games by double figures.

Dowagiac (2-20) was leading by seven points, 39-37, in the fourth quarter when a technical foul called on the Chieftains changed the complexity of the contest.

Buchanan (13-10) got a pair of free throws from Cade Preissing following the technical foul, which fueled an 11-3 Bucks’ run. When Connor Legault’ 3-pointer with 2:36 remaining capped the run, the Bucks led 43-42.

With Buchanan trying to run out the clock, Dowagiac’s Joshua Winchester-Jones came up with a steal and a score to give the Chieftains a 44-43 lead with 46 picks left on the clock.

Buchanan came right down and reclaimed the lead on a Dillon Oatsvall basket with 30 seconds left.

Dowgaiac had one last opportunity, but missed two shots in the paint, including a tip-in attempt, ending its chances of upsetting the Bucks.

Thomas VanOverberghe, despite a slow start, led Buchanan with 16 points. He scored all nine of the Bucks’ points in the third quarter. Buchanan also got 14 points from Preissing and 10 points from Oatsvall.

Isaiah Fitchett led the Chieftains with 12 points, while Gianni Villalobos added seven points.


Niles vs. Edwardsburg

Like in the first quarterfinal, the Eddies and Vikings were meeting for the third time this season.

Niles and Edwardsburg split their Wolverine Conference games with the Eddies taking the first meeting in January 54-50, while the Vikings won the second round 59-48 13 days ago.

Neither team would get near scoring 50 points in the rubber match. In fact, neither team led by more than seven points Monday night despite 11 lead changes. There were also six ties.

Niles appeared to be ready to pull away from Edwardsburg in the fourth quarter when Jayson Johnson gave the Vikings (13-10) their biggest advantage with four minutes remaining.

Edwardsburg’s Brody Schimpa, who scored a game-high 24 points, connected on a pair of 3-pointers, while Mason Crist added a triple to put the Eddies right back into the contest.

Niles had a chance to seal the win with Mike Phillips at the line for a one-and-one with 9.3 ticks showing on the clock.

Williams was unable to connected on the first free throw, leaving the door wide open for the Eddies to steal the victory.

Unfortunately for Edwardsburg, the only steal was Phillips’ theft of the ball with less than four seconds remaining to give Niles the win and a shot at Berrien Springs (13-9) in the semifinals.

Phillips led the Vikings with 22 points, while Johnson added seven points and Alec Lozada six points.

While Schimpa was the lone Edwardsburg (12-9) player to reach double figures, the Eddies also got eight points from Christ and five points from Owen Eberlein.