2017-02-16 / Sports

Cats clinch Cherryland title with 0.4 ticks left

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff


BRETT DYER scored the game-winning layup with 0.4 seconds remaining Tuesday as Northport secured the outright Cherryland Conference title with a 28-26 win over visiting Traverse City Christian. Photo: Dan Duffiney BRETT DYER scored the game-winning layup with 0.4 seconds remaining Tuesday as Northport secured the outright Cherryland Conference title with a 28-26 win over visiting Traverse City Christian. Photo: Dan Duffiney With 4.4 seconds left on the clock and a chance to clinch the outright Cherryland Conference championship, Brett Dyer decided to go long — and Austin Huck found him.

Dyer hauled in Huck’s in-bounds pass near half court, darted toward the paint and delivered the go-ahead layup with 0.4 seconds left on Tuesday as the Northport boys knocked off visiting Traverse City Christian 28-26.

“Austin Huck threw a touchdown pass,” Northport coach Dave Ginsberg said. “I’m just thrilled for our guys.

“It was a gutty win.”

The Wildcats (12-3, 5-0 Cherryland) clinched first place in typical Northport fashion, winning a defensive slugfest. The team scored just four points in the second and third quarters combined.

Ginsberg said Northport rattled off a 6-0 run in the final two minutes to capture a late two-point lead, but a pair of Emerson Schlegel free throws knotted the score at 26 with 4.4 ticks left.

Dyer, who was coming off his first scoreless game of the season in Friday’s 29-21 home win over Grand Traverse Academy, finished with two points.

“It was a chess match the whole night,” Ginsberg said. “Both teams played with great desire and played really well — but we got it down, stayed in there, tightened up defensively and took that lead.”

Huck and Navneet Dhami led the Wildcats offensively with nine points apiece. Ginsberg said Zach Stowe, who added four points and seven rebounds, played a key role defensively against Christian’s pair of lengthy post players.

The Wildcats, who also won at Christian on Jan. 20, earned a share of the league title last season on the strength of three seniors: Caleb Brown, Daelin Irvine and Cherryland MVP Marcus Stowe. The trio accounted for nearly two-thirds of the team’s offensive production.

Northport players haven’t filled their shoes in terms of scoring this season, but they’ve more than made up for it with defense.

“We had guys returning, but they hadn’t scored a lot,” said Ginsberg, who took over as the Northport coach last summer. “Then we filtered in a lot of new guys. It was a new team, and we’re playing a little different than we did last year. The guys have just done a marvelous job.”

The team is surrendering just 28.5 points per game this winter, 16.6 points fewer than last season. Such defensive efforts have led to wins in nine of Northport’s last 10 games — and, of course, a championship.

St. Mary coach Clint Couturier, whose team tallied its first Cherryland Conference win of the season against Grand Traverse Academy 44-43 on Tuesday, has been impressed with Ginsberg’s work this season.

“They play great defense,” Couturier said. “They play the pace they want to play and they dictate the game.

“The funny thing is we’ve all had shots at them, even GTA. They had a close game and ended up losing by eight. Everyone was right there nipping at their heels, but they got it done. Kudos to them. They’ve found ways to win those close games, and that says a lot. They’ve got kids who are working hard and who have bought into that defensive scheme.”

The Wildcats return to action tonight against the visiting Traverse City Bulldog Athletic Association.

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