Gielczyk: Pentwater Looks to End Lengthy Conference Title Drought
Pentwater’s fans had come to Brethren to witness history, but left the Brethren High School gymnasium disappointed and apprehensive after the Falcons’ girls basketball team was turned back by the Bobcats, 42-39 on Monday night.
The Bobcats not only delayed the Pentwater celebration, but left the Falcons in a desperate situation tied for first place with Bear Lake and only one game remaining in the conference season.
As Pentwater head coach Joe Gorton said after the game, it came down to execution, and the Bobcats executed a little cleaner down the stretch. The Falcons, who never had the lead in a game that was close throughout, was plagued by missed shots all night.
Shots that teased the crowd, hanging on the lip of the rim for a split second, and then falling back out.
With under a minute left in the game, Brethren went to the free throw line and missed the front end of one-and-one opportunities. The Bobcats beat the Falcons to the rebound each time.
Precious time came off the clock while the Bobcats passed the ball around, until the Falcons finally regained possession and senior Taylor Wilkinson hit a shot to make it a one-point game, 40-39 with 11.8 seconds left.
The Bobcats ended the drama with 3.6 seconds remaining when sophomore Megan Cordes sank two free throws for the final margin.
“I think the girls came in a little nerved up,” Gorton said. “I don’t know if it was the mid-winter break, I don’t know if it was a hangover from Bear Lake (the Falcons pulled out a 40-37 win Jan. 15).
“Maybe we were a little mentally drained. It’s probably a bunch of those things. They still gave it their all. They’re crushed right now. But, that share is still ours if we get a win Thursday. It’s still ours to lose.”
But, there’s no room left for error.
Jordan Miller-Rowe, a freshman, was the Falcons leading scorer in the game with 12 points.
“She’s cool as a cucumber in these close games,” said Gorton. “It’s fun to watch her progress, and see what she’s doing on the floor. She’s not afraid of that spotlight.
“Taylor had trouble putting the ball in the bucket, but she had five assists and tried to create where she could. They had her bottled up.”
Pentwater closes out its conference schedule at Big Rapids Crossroads Academy on Thursday night in a must win game if the Falcons hope to clinch at least a share of the league title.
Should the Falcons (13-6, 11-2 WMD) lose, they would need for Bear Lake (13-5, 11-2 WMD) to do the same in its league final at home against Walkerville. On paper, both teams are expected to win.
Big Rapids resides in the conference cellar with a 1-12 record, and is just 2-17 overall. The Falcons won’t be the Cougars lightly after losing to the Bobcats.
The Lakers also should win, although the Wildcats are considered a more dangerous opponent and are 8-5 in the league (9-9 overall). It’s the time of the season when there is no tomorrow.
While the loss to Brethren was disappointing, it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the Falcons and their fans.
It was the second time this season Brethren had beaten the Falcons. The first time was back on Nov. 30, in the league opener, and was every bit as close, with the Bobcats prevailing, 39-34.
Brethren put itself back in the conversation for the league title, too. Should both Pentwater and Bear Lake lose, a Bobcat win over Mason County Eastern at home Thursday night would give them a piece of the title. The Bobcats are 10-3 in the conference.
Of course, Pentwater is hoping for a different scenario.
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at email@example.com for story ideas.