The Yale boys basketball team managed to defend its home court against North Branch in last night’s conference opener, but it was no easy battle.
The Broncos had captured a 3-point lead with two minutes left in the half when the Bulldogs responded with a 7-0 run, giving themselves a 24-20 advantage. A last-second free throw from North Branch junior Chase Bordyn narrowed the deficit to 24-21 as the two teams went into the locker room.
“At half time, I was concerned about the score, but…we were getting a ton of layups and good looks. I was just hoping we’d get to the point where those started falling,” Yale head coach Garnett Kohler said. “In the second half they did.”
North Branch had tied the game at 26 early in the third, and again at 29, but with four minutes left in the quarter, shots started falling, just as Kohler had hoped.
It started with a bucket from senior Logan Vincent, continued with back-to-back threes from freshman Jackson Kohler and junior Ryan Monarch, and finished off with a steal by Kohler and a quick pass up the court to Vincent for a layup. Yale now led by 10 with 1:45 to go in the third.
“In the first half we did exactly what we wanted,” North Branch head coach Jack Chittle said. “We had a point where we were up and then we let them go on a little bit of a run to close the half, and that team’s just too good to do that.”
Chittle said he was proud of his team's effort, especially defensively, but he also noted it was hard to fall back into the once-effective 1-2-2 zone during the scoring drought.
The Broncos chased the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter, and while they outscored their opponent 10-2 from the floor, Yale combined for a perfect 14-for-14 performance at the charity stripe, securing the team’s 55-39 victory.
“We were just controlling the ball, seeing the court, and playing the game at our pace,” junior Connor Jakubiak said. “Free throws are big, we work on those all the time. We like to get to the line and shoot free throws.”
As a team, Yale finished the night 19-for-24 in foul shots. North Branch, on the other hand, went 5-for-12.
“The free-throw line killed us tonight,” Chittle said. “It’s hard to win basketball games when it’s like that.”
Jackson Kohler led the Bulldogs in the win with 15 points (two 3-pointers), seven assists, and four steals. Monarch added 13 points on the night (two 3-pointers) and Jakubiak chipped in with 12.
“We’re always excited to get any win, especially in the conference,” Garnett Kohler said. “The BWAC is as solid as it has been in years this year. Every game’s going to be a grinder, much like tonight.”
North Branch was led by a trio of seniors: Griffin Mabery (10 points), Lucas Schapman (nine), and Will Damaska (eight).
“We played really hard…They’re upset in there and that’s a good thing. It’s my job to be the positive guy, but they’re upset in there after a loss. We executed really well at certain times, we’ve just got to take care of the basketball more,” Chittle said. “That’s only game number two for us. We’ve just got to keep going.”
Just as quickly as it began, league play will now pause for the BWAC teams until the new year. Yale (3-0) will be on the road against Marysville on Tuesday, Dec. 20, and North Branch (0-2) will play in the Dryden Tournament against Brown City tonight.
"We just take it one game at a time, so whoever our next opponent is on the schedule is who we’re worried about," Monarch said. "We just take it day by day and practice by practice."
For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli
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