STANWOOD — The suspense of who would be victors between Morley Stanwood and Lakeview took every second of Friday’s game to figure out.
Leading 55-53 with two seconds left, Morley Stanwood’s offensive weapon Nic Huntey drew a foul to go to the free throw line in hopes of tying the game.
However, Huntey made only one of two free throws, missing the second one, with Lakeview’s Caleb Cavendish rebounding the ball and knocking down a free throw to secure a 55-54 districts semifinals win for the Wildcats.
It was the first time in at least four weeks that Lakeview’s coach Pete Wurm has most of his players back healthy and just in time, as his team faced a Mohawks team that had beaten Lakeview both times in the regular season.
“I learned early in my playing days, on the losing end of it, that it’s tough to beat a good team three times,” Wurm said. “They got us both in the regular season. But I kept telling my kids that if I can get my kids to buy in to the adjustments we made, that we could play great defense. We had something for them.”
Though Huntey finished with a game-high 27 points, no other Mohawks player scored more than eight points.
The Wildcats had three players score in double digits, with Cavendish leading the way with 14 points, followed by Drew Bannen with 11 points (and nine rebounds) and David Larson with 10 points.
Confidence was the deciding factor in the third matchup between these two teams, said Cavendish, a senior.
“We knew that Morley was going to be a little over their heads because it was their home court and they beat us twice, so the team knew we could pull it off because we had a couple close games with them,” he said. “We had a lot of confidence coming into this game. That’s what won the game tonight. It was the first time we’ve all been healthy in a while.”
Both teams exchanged leads 13 times until the third quarter when the Wildcats got back-to-back “and-ones” from Cavendish and Bannen, both sinking their free throws to retake the lead for good, 36-33 with just before the end of the third quarter. But Morley Stanwood didn’t go away.
After senior David Larson fouled out with 2:53 to go in the game, Wurm looked to his bench to help finish out the win.
“We knew that starting the lineup I did, one of those guys was going to end up in foul trouble. But if I could start those kids and rotate them around, I tried to throw enough guys in there to spread the fouls out there as much as I could,” Wurm said, adding he rotated guys against Huntey to make sure to limit the number of players fouling out.
With each team trading baskets down the stretch, the Mohawks inched closer, pulling within one point owing to continuous missed free throws by the Wildcats.
“It was a little more close (in the end) that I wanted it to be, missing free throws down at the end, which has been a bit of a struggle all year, but I feel the big difference in that game was, we played great both halves,” Wurm said. “In the first half, they got 75 percent of the 50-50 balls. In the second half, I think we got 75 percent of the 50-50 balls. We took care of the ball, we made smart passes for the most part, we got the ball where it needed to be. We played keep-away enough to scratch one out there.”
Junior guard Keola Kaaikala hopes his team will bring the same kind of game against Leroy Pine River, whom they will face today at 3 p.m. at Morley Stanwood.
“It was a really exciting game. Defense won the game tonight,” Kaaikala said. “We wanted to have good rebounding, play defense, pass the ball, as well. Next game, I think we need to play as good as defense as we did, and play defense as a team like we did, that’ll help out a lot.”
Wurm praised players like Cavendish and Banned, who set the tone of the game with strong defensive play and great presence in the paint on offense.
“Drew (Bannen) played great defense, was strong and made some layups,” Wurm said. “Cavendish just does what he always does. He’s a rock. You don’t even notice he’s there moving guys out of the way until he gets an offensive rebound and a three-point play comes out of it. He does so many small, good things and he’s such an intelligent athlete that he’s in the right place all the time.”
Other Wildcats scorers were Kaaikala, who had eight points, three rebounds and two blocks, and Andrew Nummer came off the bench to score nine points and collected two rebounds.
For the Mohawks, both Caden Dillree and Austin Barnes scored eight points.