2017-01-12 / Sports

Comets overcome slow start, claw past Cats

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

GARETT MILLER of Leland leaves his feet to float a runner over Northport defender Navneet Dhami during Leland’s 34-27 home win on Monday. GARETT MILLER of Leland leaves his feet to float a runner over Northport defender Navneet Dhami during Leland’s 34-27 home win on Monday. Shutting out a county rival for the first eight minutes of a basketball game is no easy task. Doing it twice in one season is nearly unheard of.

That said, Northport players thought they accomplished the feat in Leland on Monday — until a 3-point heave from Leland guard Chris Ursu at the first-quarter buzzer said otherwise.

“They were perfectly content to go in 2-0 at the end of the first quarter and were pretty content to have it be 3-2,” Leland coach Jon Kiessel said after the game. “The way they defend, unless we want to jack shots, makes for long possessions. I was proud of the guys for hanging in there.”

Ursu’s contested triple was his first of two momentum-shifting 3-pointers in the defensive slugfest. The second came midway through the fourth quarter, and it gave the Comets a 27-25 lead they would not relinquish.

Fellow guard Garett Miller poured in 10 of his game-high 18 points in the fourth frame, helping Leland secure a 34-27 win and avenge a 17-point loss to the Wildcats in the season opener.

“We weren’t really clicking in the first quarter,” Miller said of Monday’s matchup. “It was a slower game at first because we wanted to ease into it and keep them under control, unlike the last time we played them.”

The low-scoring first quarter was more a product of defensive tenacity than poor offensive execution.

The Comets (3-3, 1-2 Northwest) and Wildcats (3-2, 0-0 Cherryland) stayed patient on both ends of the floor, leading to long possessions with few open looks. A variety of full-court pressures led to more of the same in the second stanza as the teams went into halftime tied at 11 apiece.

Then, after Northport took a 25-20 lead in the fourth quarter, Leland turned defense into offense.

“The blocked shots really got us going,” Miller said.

The junior guard took over the game in the closing minutes by attacking the paint, drawing fouls and knocking down 5-of-6 attempts from the stripe.

His performance, coupled with Leland’s ability to force turnovers, allowed the Comets to rally off a 14-2 run in the closing stages.

“We handed them the ball,” Northport coach Dave Ginsberg said. “We had 21 turnovers, and that’s 21 times you don’t get shots. It was really disappointing. Our defense was good the whole game until it got away from us in the end. We’re a team that’s still trying to find its identity.”

Ursu finished with eight points for the Comets. Timmy LeVeque added six points, six rebounds and three steals.

Zach Stowe led the Wildcats offensively with eight points. Austin Huck chipped in with seven.

Both teams will look to stay strong defensively as they return to action on the road in a pair of conference games against Leelanau County opponents.

The Comets will travel to Suttons Bay (2-4, 0-3 Northwest) tonight before the Wildcats head to St. Mary (1-3, 0-0 Cherryland) tomorrow.

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