VanPolen’s double double leads NMC past Marion

March 7, 2019

by Ben Murphy
Sports Writer

McBain Northern Michigan Christian wasn’t having any thoughts of letting Marion pull off an upset Monday night. The Lady Comets put up a strong defensive effort and made plenty of shots to boot, claiming a50-28 division four district opening round win at Buckley.

“We came out with pressure defensively and it jump started the offense,” NMC head coach Jason Towers said. “Kare VanPolen led us with 15 points and the rest of the scoring was a balanced effort. Everyone really pushed to get a nice lead early.”

The Eagles knew they’d have to play near perfect to beat NMC, but they gave the ball away to the tune of 29 turnovers, severely hurting their cause.

“Going into the game, we knew in order for us to have a chance we would have to play very clean basketball, because NMC is a pretty good team,” Marion head coach Matt LaGrow said. “We had some shots early in the game but we just couldn’t’ get anything to fall and they kind of ran away with it. We played better in the second half but by then it was too late.”

VanPolen’s big night got started right away, as she poured in 11 points in the opening quarter, helping the Comets race off to a 17-5 lead after one.

In the second, VanPolen and Morgan Bennett netted four points apiece and the Eagles weren’t able to score at all, leaving it 29-5 at the half.

Madelyn Benthem found the hot hand in the third, as she hit a three and had five points, while the Eagles got going as well, getting a pair of threes by Tashawa Switalski and a three by Aspen LaGrow, all to make it 42-15 entering the fourth. In the final stanza Isabell Bontekoe scored four points and Lexi Salisbury and LaGrow added threes as the teams played the game out to the 50-28 final.

VanPolen finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds, Bennett finished with 10 points, three rebounds and three steals, Benthem had seven points, Paige Ebels netted six points and had two assists and Ally Sigafoose had four points and 11 rebounds.

The Eagles were led by Switalski, Bontekoe and LaGrow with six points apiece, Chloe Philo and Lexi Salisbury had three points each and Stella Henderson had one point each.

The Eagles also lost a West Michigan ‘D’ Conference game at Big Rapids Crossroads on Thursday, Feb. 28, 36-22.

“It was a pretty evenly played game until the fourth quarter,” LaGrow said. “Crossroads had played us really physically and we didn’t handle that part of it very well. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around we were starting to struggle.”

The game was knotted up at 4-apeice after the first quarter, with Marion getting a pair of baskets by Philo. Katlin Booms hit for five points in the second and LaGrow buried a three as Marion inched ahead 12-10 at the half. Marion only had two points in the third, which allowed Crossroads to surge ahead 20-14 entering the fourth, where they were only able to add eight more points.

Philo finished with six points, Booms had five, Bontekoe had four, LaGrow had three and Emily Krchmar had two.

Marion finishes the season 6-13 overall.

“We won six games and we had three or four other games where it was within a bucket or two, which makes playing the game much more enjoyable for the kids,” LaGrow said. “I’m hoping that the fact that we are winning games and playing competitive basketball will encourage other kids to join. We want to keep the kids that we have of course and maybe bring a few extra kids on board that may have not been interested. We have good group of kids coming back, though we lost two important players in Katlin and Tashawa, who have both given quite a bit to the team over the years.”

NMC closed out the regular season on Thursday, Feb. 28 as well, falling to Highland Conference champion Manton, 53-41.
“The girls gave the champs a great fight,” Towers said. “Our game plan was to play a tough zone and try to control the boards and not allow penetration. If they were going to beat us, we wanted to make them do it from long range. We hustled back on defense and did a great job on the glass, racking up 36 rebounds.”

NMC led 14-10 after the first quarter but fell behind 30-23 by the half and 37-30 entering the fourth.

“We were right in it the whole time,” Towers said. “Manton ended up winning by 12 but it was close right up to the end.”
Leading the way on the night was Benthem with 15 points, Sigafoose had 13 points and 10 rebounds and VanPolen had nine points.

NMC (13-8) continued district action in the semi-finals against Buckley on Wednesday. Brethren and Mesick were in the other semi-final, with the championship slated for tonight (Friday). The district winner moves on to the Mesick regional on Monday.

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