Panthers boot Bear Lake out of first place

BALDWIN — Baldwin wasn’t in a position to win the West Michigan D League. But the Panthers wanted to be a spoiler.

Tuesday night, Andon Ware fired in 28 points while Karlos Perez added 19 and Baldwin defeated Bear Lake 69-58 in the West Michigan D League boys basketball finale for both teams.

Baldwin improved to 13-6 overall and 11-5 in the league. Bear Lake fell to 17-3 but more importantly the Lakers dropped to 14-2 in the league to drop out of first place. Manistee Catholic Central, at 15-1, finishes with the league title.

“This was like a district tournament atmosphere,” said Baldwin coach Scott Pedigo. “I thought we came to play. We were the aggressor offensively. I don’t think we shot great early on but we had a lot of offensive rebounds.”

It was easily one of Baldwin’s most rewarding wins of the season, if not the most rewarding.

“If we can’t win a league we weren’t going to let them,” Pedigo said. “If they won they would have shared the league championship. This was a great game. This is what it’s going to be like in a week (at the Class D districts). We’ll open with McBain (Northern Michigan Christian at McBain) in this type of crowd.”

Christian Novak netted 20 points and brought down 11 rebounds to lead Bear Lake while Nicholas Streeter added 11 points for the visitors.

“We’re moving on to districts,” Bear Lake coach Bryan Groenwald said. “That’s a pretty long, hard battle. If you knew at the beginning of the season you could only lose one game to capture the conference, you would have said ‘wow.’ That’s how it boiled down. Catholic Central wouldn’t go away.”

The Panthers took a 34-19 lead into the second half. The Lakers opened with a 9-0 run in the third quarter. Novak’s bucket made it 34-28 with 6:06 to go in the third.

Perez hit two buckets and Ware netted one in a 6-0 stretch that put Baldwin up 44-33 late in the quarter. Perez drove for two with 40 seconds left for a 46-36 lead.

Ware scored to open the fourth quarter. Perez added an over-the head reverse lay-in moments later for a 50-37 lead. Childress drove for a basket and 56-41 lead with five minutes to play.

Nicholas Streeter netted a 3-pointer and layup and Christian Novak added a baseliner to make it 58-52 with 2:34 to play. Ware countered with a 3-point play for Baldwin. Stephen Verrett’s baseliner for Bear Lake cut the lead to 63-56 at 1:20. Childress drove for a layup a 1:05 for a nine-point Baldwin advantage. Ware scored with 40 seconds to play for a 67-56 to clinch the win.

“I was happy with our defense,” Pedigo said. “I was disappointed with our passing at times. We did a bad job of breaking the press at points. I tell them I’d rather you have a 5-second call than throw it away for a layup to them. That way, we can set up our defense.

“I thought we boxed out well. I don’ t think they had many second-chance baskets. If you look at their offensive rebounds they’re not even half as ours. We’re a smaller team do. That has a lot to do with desire, I think I try to tell the kids that that size doesn’t matter. It’s who wants the ball more.”

Childress, Perez and Ware netted three field goals apiece to spark Baldwin to an 18-10 lead after the first quarter. John Girven netted a 3-pointer to cut Baldwin’s lead to 20-13 midway in the second quarter. Ware netted seven points in the quarter to spark the 15-point halftime Panther lead.

“I was happy with our first-half defense,” Pedigo said. “This is a team used to scoring in the 70s. To hold them to 19 points in a half, if you do that to anyone, that’s pretty good defense.”

“I don’t ever blame officials. We didn’t do what we needed to do,” said Groenwald. “In my mind, we took maybe five or six charges that maybe should have gone our way. But that’s the way it is. You have to adapt to the game. We had the mindset that’s what we’re going to do against a team that puts its head down and go. We didn’t get the call and that’s the way it is.”

The Panthers close the regular season at home Thursday against Northport. The semifinal district game at McBain MNC is next Wednesday.