20-2: Norse Beat Lakers; Tighten Grip On 1st Place
Click the thumbnails to see photos and videos, and to hear post-game comments from Ezra Brown and Coach Matt Johnson. Also click the AUDIO button to hear Ryan Sweeney's player spotlight interview, and comments from Bay College President Nerita Hughes about the future of athletics at the college.
ESCANABA---The Bay College Norse men's basketball team had six players score in double figures on Saturday, and led almost from start-to-finish to beat the Mid Michigan College Lakers, 85-73, at the Bay College Gym. The Norse took a two-game lead atop the MCCAA North Conference standings at the season's halfway point.
Bay, since joining the conference last year, has won 21 straight MCCAA games (21-0), and this year, sits at 7-0.
Mid Michigan fell two games back at 5-2, and the Norse have the tiebreaker. Winning the conference would mean the Norse would host the MCCAA State Championship, after having to travel to Detroit last year to play in the event at Henry Ford College.
So, all in all, it was a huge win for the Norse (20-2), who are ranked 19th nationally.
“I thought this was the best we've played defense at any point,” Norse Coach Matt Johnson said. “They're averaging 90 points. I know they scored 73, and 43 in the second half, and I'm not super-excited about that, but the defensive effort we had in the first half was by far the best that we've had at any point this year."
"It was an awesome effort, and it was all of us. We were just very consistent and locked in. It was fun. I'm happy for our guys because their hard work is paying off. They're improving as well, and doing some really good things.”
Mid Michigan got a triple from Devin Watts to start the game with a 3-0 lead, and that was the only time the Lakers had the lead all afternoon long. The Lakers were close, though, trailing just 19-16 just past the halfway mark of the first half before the Norse scored nine straight points to open up a 12-point lead at 28-16.
And then the lead grew to 43-28 after Baril Mawo made is second triple of the half, and a Joe Ofori lay-up gave the Norse a 17-point lead just before halftime.
The lead grew to 20 points on two occasions in the second half. The first, on a Genesis Kemp triple, made it 52-32. And after the Lakers cut the lead to 12 points, the Norse went on another spurt, ended by a Mawo lay-up, making it a 62-42 game.
Still, Bay could not completely close the door. The Lakers went on a 8-0 run, fueled by the determined play of James Wright, to get to within 62-50. They never were able to get the lead under ten, however, and the Norse cruised to the victory.
And the Norse did it without their top point guard, Nic Williams, who missed his third straight game with a concussion. Ezra Brown filled in, and did a nice job, with 13 points, and other than a couple of rough defensive plays, he filled in nicely on defense as well.
Brown made all four of his shots from the field, and all four of his free throw attempts.
“I just went out there and played basketball, man,” Brown said. “It's been a tough season for me, but I'm starting to really figure it out. I'm figuring out the right shots at the right time, and I'm feeling it. It's good to have a little leeway (make a mistake but not getting benched), feeling like you're really having an effect on the game, and changing the pace of it."
"I feel like it was pretty good," Brown continued. "There were a couple of plays where I lost focus, where I was moving a little bit too slow, but other than that, just working hard and being in the right spot at the right time.”
“He had 13 points and guarded who people say is the best guard in the conference the entire time he checked in,” Johnson said. “Great effort by Ezra. He stepped up.”
Kairee Gadson and Genesis Kemp both scored 15 points, Ofori contributed 14 points and a team-high nine rebounds, and Mawo scored 13 points. Ryan Sweeney chipped in twelve points, dished out a team-high five assists, and did not commit a turnover in 33 minutes of play.
“I mean, we've got six guys (scoring) in double figures, and they've got two,” Johnson said. “Our depth, the way we share it, the way we play, I think we're going to be tough to beat if we keep making progress. This was a huge win. I think this is the biggest win we've had yet. Great win. I'm proud of the guys. Our shooting percentage: we shot 54-percent from the field, 50 from three, 75-percent from the free throw line, and we held a team that scores 90 points a game in the 70's. It's just an awesome, awesome team effort.”
On the Norse Dunk-O-Meter, there were two of them on Saturday: Ofori had a sweet one-handed stuff, and Kemp took a bounce pass from Gadson for a two-handed jam.
Mid Michigan (13-7 overall, 5-2 MCCAA) got 20 points and six rebounds from Wright, and Delon McLeod added 15 points. The Norse and Lakers will meet again on Feb. 27 in Mt. Pleasant to end the regular season.
In the meantime, though, the second half of the MCCAA season starts this Wednesday night in Escanaba as the Norse host North Central Michigan College (6-13 overall, 3-4 MCCAA). Game time is 7:30 and it will be broadcast on Maverick FM-106.3 and through the audio link on-line at www.baynorse.com.