By Mike Dunn
EVART – It was the season-opener for the Manton and Evart boys basketball teams Friday on the floor of the Wildcats and at times there were more fouls and bruises being exchanged than points in a contest where both teams played physically aggressive man-to-man defense.
Manton led the entire way but the stubborn Wildcats remained within striking distance through three quarters. The Rangers finally pulled away on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, however, on the way to a 64-38 decision.
“I’m happy with the way we fought through the tough times to finish the game strong,‘ said Manton coach Ryan Hiller.
“Give Evart credit; they battled us hard. In the first half it seemed like there were three of their guys on the floor fighting for a loose ball to only one of our guys. In the second half, we matched their intensity and played pretty good defense.‘
Manton led 21-10 after the first quarter but Evart rallied to pull within six points, 27-21, after senior Donavin Reagan drained a triple from the baseline at the start of the third quarter. The Rangers maintained a six-to-10-point lead over the next 11 minutes of what became a choppy game marked by a lot of stoppages at both ends of the floor.
A driving layup from Evart’s senior post Tony Hartock trimmed the Manton lead to 39-30 with 5:29 remaining in the fourth quarter. After that it was all the Rangers, though, as they outscored the home team 25-8 to close out strongly. The Rangers’ Lucas McKernan came off the bench to help spark the late surge, scoring all five of his points down the stretch, and Kaleb Moore was 8-for-8 from the line. Hiller also noted the defensive energy provided late in the game by junior reserve guard Dreden Morrow, who was making his varsity debut.
Evart coach Kris Morgan credited his team’s gritty effort, though he was disappointed with his team’s shooting percentage from the free throw line (7 of 20) and 3-point range (3 of 14).
“We were missing our threes and they were making theirs and that was one of the big differences in the outcome,‘ Morgan noted.
“We had too many one-and-done possessions in the fourth quarter while they kept making their shots. I was happy with how we went toe-to-toe with them. We showed plenty of fight but you can’t miss that many shots against a good team like Manton.‘
The game was delayed a few minutes in the fourth quarter after an accidental-but-heavy collision between Evart’s Donovan Duncan and Manton’s Jacob Ruppert forced both players to leave the floor and be tended to.
Manton’s Isaac Raden led all scorers with 18 points, including three treys, while Moore tallied 10 and Cole Regnerus and Jacob Haun each scored eight and Radian Schmidt six. Ruppert pulled down 10 rebounds before being sidelined and Regnerus grabbed eight.
Reagan rattled the iron for 11 to pace the Wildcats. Cam Brasington tallied nine with two steals and Justin Buckner scored seven with nine boards. Hartsock pulled down eight caroms.
Evart hosts McBain on Monday and Manton hosts NMC on Tuesday.