2018-03-08 / Sports

Panthers breeze past shorthanded Comets

Leland unravels after top scorer goes down early
By Jay Bushen
Sports Editor


LELAND SENIOR Garett Miller makes his way off the Suttons Bay floor Monday with help from Leland Principal Charlie Gann, left, and Athletic Director Ryan Knudsen after injuring his ankle in the first quarter of the team’s district quarterfinal contest against Frankfort. LELAND SENIOR Garett Miller makes his way off the Suttons Bay floor Monday with help from Leland Principal Charlie Gann, left, and Athletic Director Ryan Knudsen after injuring his ankle in the first quarter of the team’s district quarterfinal contest against Frankfort. The gym went silent.

With the score tied 0-0 at the 6:03 mark of the first quarter, Leelanau County scoring leader Garett Miller elevated for a fast-break layup, stepped on a Frankfort player’s foot, fell to the floor — and stayed there.

As Leland coach Jon Kiessel put it, it was an unfair fight from the get-go.

“That was obviously a big blow to our team,” Kiessel said. “Things had to go really right for us to have a chance to win that game, and we thought we had a good gameplan, but obviously that all changed in the first (two minutes). He was supposed to attack the middle of their defense, and we struggled once he left.”

The Class D No. 6 Panthers, who had clinched a share of the Northwest Conference title less than a week prior, promptly opened up a 20-3 run and never looked back en route to a 62-36 District 117 quarterfinal victory on Monday in the Village of Suttons Bay.

Frankfort (19-2) was slated to take on Northport (12-6) in the district semifinals after press time last night.

“Once we lost Garett, we lost our composure,” Kiessel said. “We were trying to figure out where to look for that safety net but couldn’t find it.”

The Comets (7-14) didn’t find the scoresheet until the 0:45 mark of the first quarter when Miller’s little brother, Gavin Miller, hit a layup in traffic.

The score was 12-2 at that point, however, and with Garett Miller icing his ankle at the end of Leland’s bench, the game was all but over.

Frankfort attacked from all angles and made it look easy, capitalizing on a handful of Leland miscues and scoring a boatload of easy buckets.

The Panthers led 30-7 at halftime and 49-15 through three quarters.

Leland had some fun in the fourth quarter, however, as Chris Ursu poured in nine of his team-high 14 points and fan favorite Justin Bardenhagen knocked down a pair of 3-pointers.

“I was proud of the guys,” Kiessel said. “They kept coming.”

Jaylon Rogers paced the Panthers with 15 points, scoring all 15 in the first three quarters. Matt Loney added 11. Nine other Frankfort players scored.

Timmy LeVeque, who tallied four points, was one of six Leland seniors on the team this year. The others were Garett Miller, Ursu, Hank Guest, Finn MacDonald and Adam Maleski.

None made a bigger impact than Garett Miller, who has all but secured his second straight Leelanau County scoring title. He poured in 20.4 points per game as a senior despite his scoreless swan song and, as of Tuesday, led Suttons Bay’s Thomas Hursey by 3.0 points per game in the scoring ranks.

“It has been awesome to coach him,” Kiessel said. “He’s always been one of the hardest-working guys in practice, all the time. When your leading scorer works that hard, it means a lot to everyone around him. He’s the best pure scorer I’ve ever coached. His motivation was to win, and it’s hard because sometimes it’s not easy scoring that large of a percentage of the points. It makes people uncomfortable.”

His best days may be in front of him.

Kiessel said his star senior visited Grand Rapids Community College on crutches Tuesday and has already visited Alma College. He’s also considering playing college ball at Alpena Community College.

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