2017-02-02 / Sports

St. Mary snaps eight-game slide

Tuesday: Tough loss in Manistee
By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

RYAN POPP lifts a runner Saturday during St. Mary’s home win over Austin Catholic. Photo: Carol Tondreau RYAN POPP lifts a runner Saturday during St. Mary’s home win over Austin Catholic. Photo: Carol Tondreau The St. Mary boys entered Saturday’s matchup against visiting Austin Catholic in desperate need of a spark.

Fortunately for the Eagles, who had won just one game since the start of the 2015-16 season, Ryan Popp caught fire.

Popp poured in a career-high 17 points to go with four steals and two blocks as St. Mary snapped its eight-game losing streak with a 47-22 win.

“We were more pumped up for it,” said Popp, who leads the team in scoring with 8.8 points per game this season. “We were working as a team and just trying our best to work together.”

St. Mary (2-9, 0-3 Cherryland) was the better team from the opening tip, racing out to leads of 11-4 and 21-10 through the first two quarters.

The Eagles won the rebound battle, finishing with 43 boards, and shot 44 percent from the field.

The team had struggled in those areas during the losing streak.

St. Mary coach Clint Couturier lauded the play of his freshmen, who stepped up in the absence of a sophomore class that was in Washington D.C. over the weekend.

“Andrew Tondreau got into foul trouble in the first quarter with two quick ones, but Xavier McKillip stepped up and played big minutes,” Couturier said. “He played a solid game, and Nate Smith, who has helped us the last three games while we have struggled with illness, really came through after Harrison (Schaub) picked up his fourth foul with a couple of minutes left in the third. Nate came in and handled point guard duties, helping us preserve our lead and the victory.”

Avery Kohler chipped in with nine points, Schaub added eight points and eight rebounds, and Tondreau tacked on seven points and nine boards.

Popp, meanwhile, did most of his damage from beyond the arc. He knocked down a trio of triples.

The senior guard carried the momentum into Tuesday’s game at Manistee Catholic Central, scoring 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, but it wasn’t enough. St. Mary lost a heartbreaker, 43-42.

“We let it slip in the last two minutes, really,” Couturier said. “We had a four-point lead with four minutes to go but just couldn’t get it done in the end.”

Couturier said the Eagles led by six at halftime but struggled to extend the lead in the second half. The team executed well down the stretch, he said, but just couldn’t get shots to fall.

Manistee Catholic finally took the lead with about two minutes remaining.

“It was definitely our game to win,” Couturier said. “We’ve got to close the deal, but we also haven’t been in these kinds of games. Part of that is learning how to win close games — and you’ve got to be in them to learn how to do that. We got some experience today, which was good.”

The Eagles, who were back in action against Alba after press time last night, will resume league play at Northport (8-3, 2-0 Cherryland) on Tuesday.

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