Dowagiac rebounds to top Buchanan in Lakeland opener

Published 6:49 am Friday, December 1, 2023

DOWAGIAC — Rebounding from its season-opening game setback, host Dowagiac kicked off its Lakeland Conference campaign with a 63-51 victory over Buchanan Thursday night.

The Chieftains, who were defeated by former Wolverine Conference foe Vicksburg 63-50 in its first game, used some hot shooting from the outside early on and a strong defensive effort throughout the contest to square its overall record at 1-1.

The Bucks, who defeated Eau Claire 70-41 on Tuesday night, struggled against the Dowagiac defense, especially in the middle two quarters when the Chieftains took control of the contest.

Dowagiac grabbed an 18-15 lead after eight minutes of play as both teams shot the ball well.

But the Chieftains turned up the defensive effort in the second quarter, which the Bucks were unable to match. Dowagiac outscored Buchanan 15-4 to opened up a 33-19 halftime advantage.

“Better effort tonight,” said veteran Dowagiac Coach Danum Hunt. “The biggest difference was tonight, we were fully staffed. We played with six or seven guys the first night. Tonight, I had all 10 or 11. So, I was able to apply more pressure and do some different things.”

Hunt also said that the conditioning of the team continues to improve. Dowagiac is still without Johnny Cole as he is recovering from an injury sustained during football season.

The Chieftains picked up where they left off in the third quarter at both ends of the court. Dowagiac outscored the Bucks 15-7 as its lead reached 22 points (48-26) by the end of the period.

The Bucks made a run at the Chieftains in the four quarter, but could not overcome the early deficit. Buchanan was able to whittle the lead down to eight points with less than three minutes remaining, but when Hunt re-inserted a couple of starters, Dowagiac was able to push the lead back into double digits as time expired.

Veteran Buchanan Coach Reid McBeth said his team was not surprised by Dowagiac’s energy.

“I kind of expected it because Danum isn’t going to let them give that much effort two games in a row,” he said. “I think they were not happy with their performance on Tuesday night, so I figured they were going to come out and get after it.”

McBeth said the difference between the Bucks winning it first game and falling to Dowagiac was rebounding.

“It was rough going rebounding,” he said. “I think that one possession they had six offensive rebounds. We spend a lot of time in practice boxing out, so I will have to go back and watch the film to see why we weren’t getting them.”

The one possession McBeth was referring to was when Chase Frazier came off the bench and had six consecutive offensive rebounds on one Chieftain possession.

Gianni Villalobos had a game-high 18 points to lead Dowagiac, which also got 12 points from Brayden Irvin-Diaz and eight points each from Jamal Williams, Josh Winchester-Jones and Isaiah Fitchett.

Buchanan was led by Karmine Brown’s 16 points. Matt Trigg added 14 points, while Preston Payne and Jamari Brown both had seven points.

Dowagiac returns to the court Monday night as it hosts River Valley in a non-conference contest. Buchanan will be in action on Tuesday when it hosts Kalamazoo Hackett.