Crossroads hands Baldwin first loss

BALDWIN — Undefeated no longer.

Crossroads Charter Academy (3-2, 2-2) fired out to huge first-half leads and held back a furious comeback by Baldwin (4-1, 5-1) in the second half to hand the Panthers their first boys basketball loss of the season 53-51 on Thursday in West Michigan D League action.

The two rivals split their two regular-season games last year.

“We were hot in the first half but we knew Baldwin would make a run,” Crossroads  coach Jason Kostecki said after the game.

“We just dug ourselves a hole we couldn’t get out of,” Baldwin coach Scott Pedigo said. “They had more intensity. They came ready to play. I don’t think we came ready at all.”

Crossroads dominated both ends of the court in the first half on its way to a 34-18 lead. The Cougars hit their shots, the Panthers missed theirs. CCA took care of the ball while the Panthers made key turnovers.

The Panthers came back to try reversing that trend in the third quarter.

Britton Angell hit two free throws late in the first quarter to give CCA a 13-5 lead.

Tate Wickes and Angell both scored off steals in the second quarter as the Cougars continued to surge. Wickes also netted a 3-pointer to help the visitors to their 16-point halftime lead.

Wickes’ two free throws after a basket interference call against Baldwin made it a 40-26 CCA lead at 3:10 in the third. Malik Pollard hit seven points in the quarter to keep Baldwin in the game. Blake Dockery’s 3-point play at 1:01 cut it to 40-35. It was 42-37, CCA, going into the fourth.

McDonald hit a pair of baskets early in the fourth to make it 42-41. Ahmad Goram’s 3-pointer tied it 44-all at 5:40. It was a battle the rest of the way.

CCA was shooting free throws better than Baldwin and took a 50-47 lead.

Angell drove for a pair and a 52-49 lead at the two-minute mark. Baldwin’s Deondra McDonald scored off his own steal to cut it to one. McDonald later missed two free throws and CCA stayed in front. Angell also missed a free throw while Armondo Jennings missed one for Baldwin.

Angell connected at the other end for a 53-51 lead at 0:30. McDonald missed a layup at the other end, but got the steal with 10 seconds to go as Baldwin called a timeout.

Baldwin got two shots at the basket but couldn’t connect as time expired.

Kostecki said afterwards his team was able to handle Baldwin’s full-court second-half pressure.

“We worked on that (Wednesday),” he said. “We knew they run that three-quarters diamond. We were patient.”

Wickes led CCA with 22 points while Angell added 18.

‘The team has grown so much since the beginning of the season,” Angell said. “Since New Year’s, we’re a different team.”

“I expected a tough game,” Pedigo said. “They’ve been playing better since the break. I expected their zone. I thought they ran it well and we struggled against it.”

Dockery and McDonald had 18 points for Baldwin and Pollard added seven.

“We came out slow,” Pollard said. “They kind of got a big lead, which woke us up. It came down to free throws at the end of the game.”

Baldwin missed eight free throws in the fourth quarter and several were front ends of one-and-ones.