Niles opens Wolverine Conference season with win over Wildcats

Published 12:54 am Saturday, December 2, 2023

NILES — The Niles boys varsity basketball team hosted Three Rivers for its home opener Friday night. The Vikings’ swarming defense propelled them to a 63-45 win to open Wolverine Conference play.

The Vikings led 32-26 at halftime and led by as many as 20 in the game. Mike Phillips Jr. led all scorers with 21 points and Brayden Favors had 10 while Ethan Chambliss and Quinton King each tallied nine points. Brenden Olsen and Talen Bennett scored eight and six points, respectively.

Luis Warmack led Three Rivers (0-2, 0-1 Wolverine Conference) with 10 points and Alijah Ballentine had seven points while jace Gray, Heston Saunders, Zander Barth and Maxwell Burg each added six points. Will Wardell finished with two points to round out scoring for the Wildcats.

Niles Coach Myles Busby was proud of the way his team bounced back from Tuesday’s 56-43 loss at Brandywine.

“We showed a lot of toughness mentally just being able to bounce back,” he said. “The nice part about having a young team is that I just don’t think that they understand the magnitude of not just what they did, but even like how hard they played on Tuesday tonight. This team is very tall too and I’m excited to continue to figure out how to coach them.”

Niles’ size and length frustrated Three Rivers on both offense and defense.

“We have a ton of length on the outside, so it’s great for man-to-man or zone and gives us some flexibility to switch things up. We did a great job of rebounding. [Chambliss] did a great job, [Olsen] also did a really good job, (Philips) is a great rebounder for his size as well. When you match up guards like Mike Phillips and Quentin King, who was great tonight as well, with the likes of Brayden Favors on the wing, Brenden Olsen on the wing, Ethan Chambliss on the wing. We’ll get Donovyn Williams going, a 6-7 freshman.

“When you match those guys up, it makes it really difficult for a team to be successful at any capacity because they’re not just long, they’re also very athletic. We can get out on the break, we can guard, we can switch one through five. We got a lot of deflections tonight, we got a lot of blocks, but we have to do a better job of closing gaps early and not allowing teams to get a running start.”

Phillips scored 10 of his 21 points in the third quarter. The senior guard will be tasked with leading a young, talented Vikings squad this year.

“Phillips is a top 50 basketball player in the state of Michigan,” Busby said. “This is a state that produces a lot of great, quality basketball players and there’s not forty nine other guys that are better than him. He just has to show it every single day, day in the day out… It’s on both of us. We’re going to help each other grow — Mike’s going to help me be a better coach. Hopefully, we’re gonna help him as a staff to be a better basketball player so he’s ready for a college basketball coach next year.”

The Vikings (1-1, 1-0 Wolverine Conference) will travel to play South Bend Clay at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday and will host Otsego at 7:15 p.m. Friday.

“This is a very new team so we’ll just get them ready in practice and keep stacking days and pushing them so they can achieve individual success and also team success,” Busby said.