Baldwin loses rematch with Crossroads

BALDWIN — It was a far different game than the last time Crossroads and Baldwin played each other earlier this season in West Michigan D League boys basketball action.

The Panthers won that game 48-34 in Big Rapids.

But in Friday’s rematch at Baldwin, Crossroads prevailed 45-43 in overtime.

Darrin Williams netted 19 points and hit four key free throws in a seven-point overtime for the Cougars. Noah Balanda also netted 19 points for Crossroads

“We played (36) minutes,” said Crossroads coach Jason Kostecki. “We’re a good basketball team but we have that one bad quarter sometimes.”

The Panthers have lost four straight after a 6-0 start.

“When we’re winning, things are going great,” said Baldwin coach Scott Pedigo. “Now, we’re playing tight. Even when we got it together, we ran a play at the end and traveled or throw the ball away...everyone wanted to be a hero. We had every opportunity to win the game.”

Karlos Perez put in 13 points and Brandon Childress added 11 for Baldwin.

“We worked on our zone all week,” Kostecki said. “We wanted to make them shoot from outside and limit Perez. Our defense was great. It was a great team effort. I’ve never been prouder of the kids than I’ve coached tonight. They played hard.”

It was 36-36 after four quarters.

To open the four-minute overtime, both teams failed to convert on their first possessions. Perez scored on a baseliner at 2:05 for a 38-36 lead. Balanda hit one of two free throws to make it a one-point game. He followed with a bucket at 1:39 for a 39-38 lead.

With 1:22 left in OT, Aron Garland sank two foul shots for a 41-38 lead and Crossroads turned the ball over. But Balanda landed his fifth foul with 55 seconds left and Perez’s basket at the other end made it a one-point game.

Williams was fouled with 41 seconds left and made both free throws for a 43-40 lead. Williams also grabbed the defensive rebound at the other end and hit one free throw for a four-point lead.

Perez sank a 3-pointer at the other end but Crossroads inbounded the ball quicker than necessary with six seconds to go with Baldwin having no time outs. Williams was fouled and hit one free throw. He missed the second but the Panthers weren’t able to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded.

“Darrin made those clutch free throws,” Kostecki said. “He’s a senior and it showed tonight that he wanted to win, especially when Noah went out. Everyone else picked it up. We lean on Noah to do a lot of things.”

“I’m OK,” Williams said of his free-throw shooting, which was clutch down the stretch. “Intensity and defense” were the keys to the win, Williams said, adding that a victory “was very important for the rest of our season.”

With Crossroads leading 21-18 at halftime, Williams converted on a 3-point play for a 25-18 advantage early in the third. The Cougars built a 29-21 lead. Ware connected late in the quarter to cut the Crossroads lead to 29-23.

Two free throws by Balanda early in the fourth gave Crossroads a 31-25 lead. Williams connected at 6:15 for a 33-27 Cougar advantage as the Panthers continued to have problems offensively. Crossroads also struggled with turnovers in its bid to increase the lead.

Devon Sparks-Burrell scored with five minutes to play to cut the visitors lead to 33-29. Ware’s layup at 3:02 cut the lead to 34-31 and Childress followed with a jumper moments later for Baldwin

Balanda’s two free throws at 2:10 upped the Crosroads lead to 36-33. Both teams turned the ball over at key times. Childress’s 3-pointer tied the game with a minute to play and Devon Sparks-Burrell grabbed a steal at the other end. But the Panthers threw the ball away.

Baldwin got the steal at the other end and kept possession with 14 seconds left after a jump ball situation. Childress missed a shot, Crossroads rebounded and called time with four seconds to play. Williams’ 3-point try at the buzzer missed the mark, sending the game into overtime.

The Panthers struggled offensively in the first quarter. Balanda hit three field goals in the opening quarter and the Cougars fired out to a 10-0 lead before Baldwin’s Martel Forest banked a 3-point shot off the glass with 4:02 left in the period, which ended in an 11-7 Crossroads lead.

Perez drove for a bucket with 4:16 to play in the half, cutting Crossroads’ lead to 15-13. The Cougars connected on eight straight points with Balanda hitting inside for a 21-13 lead with 2:07 to play. Perez’s 3-point play helped the Panthers cut the gap to three points at the intermission.

In rebounds for the winners, it was Balanda 17, Williams 14 and Travis Thorne 11.

“We didn’t box out well all night,” Pedigo said. “The taller guys, against them we struggled. We didn’t get the little things done. We still have trouble not finishing layups.”

Crossroads is 4-4 in the league and 4-7 overall and plays at Buckley on Monday.

Baldwin is 5-3 in the league and 6-4 overall and is home Friday against Pentwater.