The Port Huron High boys basketball team never led after St. Clair junior Cooper Pennewell gave his team a 22-21 lead with less than two minutes to go in the first half.
But that didn’t seem to faze the Big Reds as they chipped away at the deficit, just enough to send it to overtime, and from there, the game would be theirs.
“It’s good to know that your team has no quit,” head coach Jeremy Rosenau said. “In years past, we had teams that fell down and hung our heads because that’s what we’re used to doing. We’re trying to change that and understand that the game’s never over until the final buzzer goes off.”
It might be cliche, but it was true last night as Port Huron hosted St. Clair in the second MAC-Silver game of the season. The Big Reds would win 58-53 in overtime, improving to 4-4 on the season and 2-0 in the league.
“It’s great. We lost a couple of heartbreakers at the beginning of the season,” sophomore Garrett James said. “This was a game coming in we wanted to get to .500, and we just came out here…and fought back and were able to come out with the win.”
St. Clair trailed early but controlled much of the third quarter and with 5:31 left in regulation, led 44-36.
That’s when senior Conner Rosenau hit a pair of free throws and James supported him with a 3-pointer that put the Big Reds within three at 44-41 with 4:22 to go.
Pennewell responded a minute later to extend St. Clair’s lead, 46-41, but just as he did before, James sent another shot up from beyond the arc, keeping his team within striking distance.
Pennewell, who scored 11 of his 19 points in the final 12 minutes of the game, was fouled and sank both free throws with a minute to go. With a 48-44 lead, things were looking good for St. Clair.
But this time it was senior Nate Oriel’s turn to shine with a triple (his third of the night) which put Port Huron within one, 48-47, with 43 seconds remaining.
“I don’t think you could point to one guy,” Jeremy Rosenau said. “There were three or four guys who had to step up at the free-throw line or knock down a three to keep us in it and give us a chance.”
The Saints tried to run down the clock, but Port Huron managed to get the ball and Conner Rosenau was fouled with nine seconds left. He missed the first, putting even more pressure on the potentially game-tying free throw.
The senior showed great focus, making the basket to send it to overtime. And within the first 30 seconds of the extra period, James hit yet another three, giving Port Huron its first lead since the second quarter – one it would never give up.
“It’s definitely a lot better winning games. Team morale goes up and everything else goes up alongside it,” James said. “We’re all happy to be there and fight and get into practice and get ready to go for our next game.”
James led the Big Reds with 18 points on the night, including four 3-pointers. Oriel had 11 points (three triples), and Conner Rosenau and senior Jaiden Ashford each had nine. Together, the Big Reds shot 13-for-19 from the free-throw line, racking up seven of their overtime points.
“We’ve struggled to hit free throws all year. I’ll take 13-for-19,” Jeremy Rosenau said. “I know that’s not a great percentage but it’s better than what we’ve been shooting. We’ve been less than 50% for the season…we hit some big ones tonight and the guys stepped up.”
Pennewell led the Saints with 19 points, freshman Braylon Frantz added 14, and senior Braylon Essian had 12. Senior Logan Ellis managed four charges on the night – just one short of tying the school’s record for number of charges in a game.
“That’s just what he does. He’s averaging over one a game,” Distelrath said of Ellis. “He’s fearless, he plays hard, and he’s a fun guy to be around.”
Port Huron will be tasked with traveling to Madison, which is also 2-0 in the MAC-Silver, on Thursday. The Saints, who are now 1-7 and 0-2 within the league, will welcome Marine City (0-8, 0-2).
“We’ve got to learn from this. We’ll watch the film and get ready with a short turnaround against Marine City at our place,” Distelrath said. “I’m sure they’re licking their chops seeing a 1-7 team.”
For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli
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