Just weeks after both schools agreed to a football co-op, Mott-Regent and New England found themselves matched up against each other in the third place game of the Region 7 Boys Basketball Tournament.
By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | email@example.com
The only thing more ironic that evening was hearing AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’ over the sound system at a Christian institution.
These two squads matched up well, with the game nearly requiring overtime. But a missed free throw in the final seconds secured New England’s 74-73 victory, and third-place finish.
Factoring into the game was the the loss of a top player from each squad, as Wildfire junior Brady Wegh and Tiger junior Cody Holt fouled out with less than two minutes left to play.
Senior Brady Bender, playing his last game as a New England Tiger, was determined to help his team go out with a win, and his 24 points was an integral part of the victory. But before he fouled out, Holt may have been the difference maker.
Driving to the hoop, on both sides of the court, Holt grabbed 25 points and 21 rebounds before he was sent to the bench. He even spent time on the bench, getting pulled by the coach late in the second quarter after he was charged with his third foul.
After being down 18-9 after the first quarter of play, the Wildfire made up some of the deficit with a 21-point second quarter and entered the half tied at 30.
Holt caught fire in the second half, with all 6-foot 8-inches getting the ball low and man-handling his way to the hoop to the tune of 15 second-half points.
Mott-Regent junior Dylan Ambers made two key 3-pointers late in the third to give the Wildfire a 50-44 lead. But Bender and New England senior Hunter Wolf scored seven points between the two to give the Tigers a three-point lead just before the fourth quarter.
Down by as much as nine points, the Wildfire strung together a few small scoring runs to cut the lead to just four with seconds left on the clock. Sophomore Tanner Zentner made a free throw to bring Mott-Regent within three.
Senior Brett Messmer got the ball and was fouled down at the post trying to make a routine layup. The basket counted and Messmer got to the line, with only a 1-point deficit. Messmer took his shot and it bounced off the rim, rebounded by the Tigers; time ran out for the Wildfire.
New England took home third place with a 73-74 win
Though his team didn’t get as far as they would have liked, Bender was happy to finish his Tiger career with a win.
“There’s not a lot of teams that go out with a win on their season,” Bender said. “I was just saying in the locker room that we should be proud of this season.”
Bender put things into perspective, with over 100 Class B basketball teams, finishing third in the region puts them ahead of most of those squads.
“Getting third place in the region, you could say that we’re in the top 24,” Bender said. “That’s another good thing.”
After Holt’s 25 and Bender’s 24, junior Carter Stang scored eight points with Wolf scoring five.
Leading scorer for the Wildfire was senior Chance Roth with 16 points, followed closely by Wegh with 15. Weigh led his team in rebounds with seven.