The race to the top of the MAC-Silver has been a close one this season.
Just a week ago, four different boys basketball teams were tied for first at 5-2 in the league standings, but now, Port Huron High is the lone leader after last night’s win over Lakeview.
The two teams entered the contest with 6-2 records after each picking up a win earlier in the week as Lakeview topped Marysville and Port Huron edged Madison for a crucial 44-40 overtime victory.
The Big Reds’ overtime victory came after a narrow 39-36 loss to St. Clair last Thursday, which was what caused the four-way tie in the first place. Five of Port Huron’s nine league games so far have been decided by 10 points or less, three of which went to overtime.
And although last night’s victory wasn’t decided by a narrow margin as the Big Reds defeated the Huskies 56-42, it was still a battle.
"We've been beating up on each other quite a bit, it's a competitive league," head coach Jeremy Rosenau said. "It's been a pretty stressful week for everybody, but it's been fun, especially now that we've seen the outcome and the reward for the hard work we've put in."
With 4:44 remaining in the second quarter, Lakeview made a free throw that put the team ahead 28-16.
That’s right, Port Huron was trailing by 12 with very little offensive momentum to foreshadow the 26-point swing that would ensue.
Finally, with 3:30 left in the half, senior Jaiden Ashford found fellow senior Nate Oriel cutting to the basket for two quick points, breaking the scoring drought. Port Huron would still trail 28-18, however.
Oriel picked up two more points from the charity stripe to spark new life into his team, and Ashford followed it up with a much-needed three. It was now 29-23 with 2:12 remaining. By halftime, the Big Reds would narrow the deficit to 32-27 thanks to four points from senior Conner Rosenau.
Conner Rosenau then shot 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the third quarter, pacing the Big Reds’ comeback. Sophomore Garrett James added a few buckets from the floor as well, including the lead-changing 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 1:35 to go in the quarter. That put Port Huron ahead 38-37, a lead they’d never relinquish.
By the start of the fourth, the home team led 42-39 and would outscore the Huskies 14-3 in the game’s final eight minutes.
"We made a defensive adjustment that really made the difference in the second half," Jeremy Rosenau said.
That adjustment meant sophomore Jaxon Rowe would take the floor to defend and fluster Lakeview senior leader Matthew Ritter.
"Once we took away his ability to score, Lakeview had trouble scoring," Jeremy Rosenau said. "It honestly kind of felt like they quit, like we had broken their will to even try to win the game, which was awesome.
"You can do that against a bad team, but when you can do that against a good team, and Lakeview’s a good team, when you can get them to wave a white flag, that’s how you know you’ve done something well."
James led Port Huron with 20 points on the night, Conner Rosenau added 16, and Ashford totaled eight.
The Big Reds are now 7-2 in the MAC-Silver, which not only marks their first winning season in league play since 2015, but it also guarantees the team at least a share of the league title, which is the program's first since 2004.
"It’s a pretty sweet feeling," Jeremy Rosenau said. "It’s been a while since the community could cheer for Port Huron High School because they’re winning games.
"We’ve got a group of guys now who are playing together and playing for each other and they're united for a common goal. I think that hopefully gets people excited to watch that."
They’ll travel to Marine City (0-9) on Tuesday for the final league game of the season. A win will guarantee Port Huron's sole ownership of the championship.
Lakeview, Madison, and St. Clair all remain tied for second place at 6-3 after the Saints fell to Madison on the road last night, 58-46.
St. Clair will host Marysville (2-7) on Tuesday while Madison and Lakeview will square off in the Huskies’ gym.
For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli
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