WAYNE — The Cedar Catholic boys went to war with the Battle Creek Braves in an instant classic Saturday at Wayne State College.
The two top seeds in the MidState Conference tourney were vying for rights to bring back third-place honors to their schools, in a contest that would leave players, coaches and fans alike hanging onto the edge of their seats.
“They’re going to be hungry, after last night’s loss,” Trojan head coach Matt Steffen said when asked about Battle Creek prior to the game. “ They’re certainly going to be motivated to play us hard today.”
It was a fast paced physical outing from the opening tip, with both teams looking to establish dominance and avenge upset loss’s from the night before.
The first quarter turned into a competition to see who could knock down the most 3-pointers in transition with the Trojans taking that title after rattling off 50 percent of their attempts successfully behind sophomore Tate Thoene who tallied five of his game-high 15 points in the first quarter.
The Braves, however, would have the answer for each Trojan strike and then some, as they would take the first frame 20-14.
That high octane energy spilled over into the second quarter.
The Trojans’ lone senior, Brady Steffen, used glove like defense to pick the pocket of Battle Creek guard Dylan Mettle and coast in for the easy layup. Steffen then forced a jump ball flipping possession back to the Trojans.
Cedar, unable to capitalize on the momentum shift at the time, then sent Braves’ junior Mason Mink to the freethrow line. Mink missed both freethrows, giving the ball back into the hands of Steffen who took the opportunity to drop in a short jumper and give Cedar the lead 23-22 with less than one minute remaining before intermission.
After a quick trip to the freethrow line and a long 3-pointer from Payton Fredrick, the Braves hit the locker room with a 27-23 lead.
“We need to keep working hard on defense,” said Steffen. “I think when we get down by two or three, there is a sense of panic. A large part of that is due to our youth, and we are really working on that.”
The action resumed in the third quarter, with a steal from Cedar’s Carter Arens resulting in a fast break pull up 3-pointer from Tate Thoene, bringing the score within one.
The Braves would fly down the court and knock down three points of their own. The hard nosed Trojans used their excellent free throw shooting abilities to keep pace with the Braves and end the third frame trailing by only one point 39-38.
The Trojans acted fast in opening the fourth frame with a go-ahead 3-pointer from Myles Thoene, before once again being evened out on the other end of the court by Battle Creek’s Reece Bode. Jaxson Bernecker would then take the liberty to deliver another go ahead shot, with a beautifully delivered hook shot with 3:30 left to play. The Trojans, up by four, and a full court press on by the Braves, was just enough to rattle Cedar’s offense forcing a turnover which resulted in a quick bucket off of the inbound pass by Battle Creek making it a two point game. The Braves would then steal the following in bound pass back, capitalizing on the error and tying the game up at 50 with 2.6 seconds left. The ensuing shot off of the hand of Trojan sophomore Charlie Schroeder would fall short sending the game to overtime knotted up at 50.
The overtime period was a back and forth battle. Tate Thoene put Cedar up by 2 with 2:12 left to go, which was rebuttled on the next possession by Battle Creek. The Trojans would then be forced to call a timeout after a scrum on the floor with 1:40 left to play. Mettle would fire up a successful jump shot giving the Braves a short lived two point lead, which was reversed by Myles Thoene’s following three pointer giving the Trojans back the lead by one. The Trojans would use 100 percent of their free throws in overtime capped off by Jaxon Bernecker who put the Braves on ice with two free throws, sealing up the win and the hard fought third place finish for Cedar Catholic 61-56.
The Trojans were paced in scoring by (Tate) Thoene with 15 points followed closely by (Myles) Thoene with 14 and Bernecker with
12. Charlie Schroeder added 8 points for the Trojans, in the victory.
Cedar 14 9 151211 —61 Battle Creek 20 7 12 11 6 — 56
Cedar BC FG 16-35 16-24 3PT 6-18 6-26 FT 11-17 6-11 Reb 40 25 TOs 10 9 Fouls 12 15 SCORING Cedar - Tate Thoene, 15; Myles Thoene, 14; Jackon Bernecker, 12; Charlie Schroeder, 8; Carter Arens, 6; Brady Steffen, 4; Ethan Becker, 1. BC - Dylan Mettler, 16; Payton Frederick, 13; Reece Bode, 11; Luke Stueve, 10; Slate Kraft, 6. REBOUNDS Cedar - Charlie Schroeder, 9; Brady Steffen, 7; Carter Arens, 7; Tate Thoene, 6; Jackson Bernecker, 6; Myles Thoene, 2; Mack Kuehn, 2. BC - Luke Stueve, 6; Dylan Mettler, 5; Slate Kraft, 5; Mason Mink, 3; Reece Bode, 2. ASSISTS Cedar - Brady Steffen, 9; Tate Thoene, 3; Charlie Schroeder, 1; Myles Thoene, 1; Carter Arens, 1; Jackson Bernecker, 1. BC - Dylan Mettler, 4; Reece Bode, 2; Slate Kraft, 2; Chase Oltmanns, 1; Mason Mink, 1; Payton Frederick, 1; Luke Stueve, 1. STEALS Cedar - Brady Steffen, 3; Carter Arens, 1; Tate Thoene, 1; Charlie Schroeder, 1. BC- Peyton Frederick, 2; Dylan Mettler, 2; Slate Kraft, 2; Reece Bode, 1.