2017-02-09 / Sports

Northport hangs on, holds off St. Mary rally on home court

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff


AUSTIN TARSA (15) elevates to contest a layup from Austin John (3) in a Cherryland Conference showdown between visiting St. Mary and Northport on Tuesday. John led all scorers with a season high 17 points. Photo: Dan Duffiney AUSTIN TARSA (15) elevates to contest a layup from Austin John (3) in a Cherryland Conference showdown between visiting St. Mary and Northport on Tuesday. John led all scorers with a season high 17 points. Photo: Dan Duffiney The much-improved St. Mary boys nearly caught Northport napping.

Austin John scored 17 points, Austin Huck added seven and Northport narrowly dodged a Cherryland Conference upset at home on Tuesday with a 36-32 victory over their county rivals.

“I think we took them for granted and it darn near cost us,” coach Dave Ginsberg said of his Wildcats (10-3, 3-0 Cherryland).

The Eagles (3-10, 0-4), who trailed 12-5 after the first quarter, trimmed the Northport lead to two late in the fourth and nearly completed the upset in the closing stages by forcing a turnover and working the ball to leading scorer Ryan Popp with 2.8 seconds left.

Popp’s corner 3-pointer missed the mark, Northport grabbed the rebound and the Wildcats secured the win with a pair of free throws.

“We weren’t sharp, but I’ve got to give Lake Leelanau St. Mary credit,” Ginsberg said. “They played well, and we fell into the trap of playing lethargic and taking them for granted. They almost got us, but we had enough to win.”

Harrison Schaub led the Eagles with 11 points and six rebounds. Popp added seven points and six rebounds.

St. Mary coach Clint Couturier said he was proud of his team, particularly in two problem areas. The Eagles finished with 14 turnovers and shot 11-of-14 from the free-throw line (79 percent).

“Like I told them after the game: They stuck with the gameplan, fought all the way through and had a shot to win it with our best shooter,” Couturier said. “They left it all on the floor.”

Couturier’s team has made significant strides since its eight-game losing streak, and those improvements were on full display during last Wednesday’s 45-34 home win against Alba.

Popp stayed hot with 15 points while Austin Tarsa contributed with a season-high 11 points.

Ginsberg, whose team handed the Eagles a 31-20 loss on Jan. 13, took note of the progression.

“I tell you, winning does wonders for you,” he said. “It gives you confidence, and they played well. I really admire what they’ve done.”

Northport has now won seven of its last eight games, including a 46-36 win over the Traverse City Bulldog Athletic Association on Friday.

Navneet Dhami led the Wildcats with a career-high 23 points in the victory. Huck had eight.

Northport will need to be at its best this week as the Wildcats compete for the Cherryland Conference championship. The team will play at Grand Traverse Academy tonight before a showdown with visiting Traverse City Christian on Tuesday.

St. Mary, meanwhile, will host Leland (3-10, 1-9 Northwest) tomorrow and Grand Traverse Academy on Tuesday.

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