Baldwin drops critical league game to Onekama

BALDWIN — First place was at stake Friday night with Baldwin and Onekama renewing their fierce West Michigan D League boys basketball rivalry.

But first-place Onekama (12-1, 11-1) tightened its hold on the top spot with a 60-50 win over second-place Baldwin (8-5, 8-3).

Onekama won 65-63 at home in December against the Panthers.

“Our defense played fairly well and we rebounded the ball well,” Onekama coach Nathan Bradford said. “I told my guys ‘one game at a time.’ But if we win this one, then it’s in our control. If we win out, we have a good chance of being conference champs. We wanted to take care of business. Now we have a two-game lead. Being in first place, a lot of teams will give us their best shot.”

“We have to keep working,” Baldwin coach Kevin Dillard said. “Sometimes we’re up and sometimes we’re down. Hopefully, we can make a stretch run in the playoffs.”

The first half was a tale of two quarters with Onekama dominating the first quarter and earning a 21-11 lead, and Baldwin controlling the second to cut the Portagers’ halftime advantage to 26-24.

Da’Ron Copeland netted three 3-pointers to lead the Panthers in the first half.

Caleb Wisniski and Joseph McCarthy sparked a strong inside game for the Portagers in the first quarter. Deondra McDonald helped the Panthers dominate the post in the second.

Randy Pienta scored early in the third to give Onekama a 30-24 lead. Baldwin tied it 30-30 at 3:20 on Blake Dockery’s baseliner. The Portagers went on a 9-0 run to end the third. Austin Sovereign’s triple gave Onekama a 35-30 lead with 2:05 to play in the third. Sovereign snuck inside for a layup and a 39-30 lead with 30 seconds to go.

In the fourth, Wisniski scored for a 42-32 lead at 5:30.

Copeland’s layup cut Onekama’s lead to 44-38 at 3:35. Jacob Mauntler’s baseliner gave the Portagers a 48-38 bulge, but Copeland responded with a 3-pointer.

Baldwin was forced to foul late in the game and Wisniski’s two free throws gave Onekama a 52-47 lead. McDonald fouled out with 54.7 seconds to play. Pienta’s four straight free throws made it 56-47.

“We knew coming in it was going to be a game of runs,” Bradford said. “I thought we started off pretty well. We shot the ball and hit a few 3s to get us rolling. Then we had a little letup right before halftime where Baldwin made a run at us. I thought we came out strong in the second half and worked inside out, got a lot of good looks and were patient with the ball and took care of the ball.”

Mauntler led Onekama with 15 points, while Pienta scored 13 and Wisniski added 12.

Copeland paced Baldwin with 17 points, followed by Dockery with 13 and McDonald with 12.

“We didn’t box out the way we should have,” Dillard said. “We didn’t play the way we’re capable of. It’s like we forget what we learned in practice. As bad as we played in the first half, we were only down by two points. We had a chance in the third quarter to come out and really put the pressure on them. We kind of laid flat and thought they were going to give us the game. We didn’t play as hard as we should have.”

Baldwin is at Manistee Catholic Central on Friday.