Experience counts: Senior-heavy Munster turns back Michigan City
By CJ PETERS
MICHIGAN CITY – With Michigan City entering Tuesday’s game averaging over 80 points a game, it didn’t take an expert to figure out that the Wolves want to get the ball and go, go, and go some more.
Its opponent, Munster, provided City with a contrasting style – one that was looking to play more in the half-court. Also the more experienced bunch, the Mustangs boast eight seniors on its 10-player roster, including all five starters.
Munster’s composure shone through against City's pressure defense as the Mustangs led by as much as 16 and held off numerous comeback attempts in a 76-71 win at the Wolves Den.
“There were a few times in the second half where the wheels were wobbling and we’d call timeout and regroup and the kids would execute when they needed to,” Munster coach Mike Hackett said. “There’s a majority of seniors playing, even though the little freshman (David Cundiff) did a good job, too. That’s what seniors are supposed to do though – keep their composure and their poise and make plays when plays need to be made.
Munster (9-2) has won nine in a row as it put four players in double figures and hit seven 3-pointers.
“We needed a really good game against a good, competitive and aggressive team and obviously Michigan City gave that to us,” Hackett said. “They’re just so quick, so aggressive, can shoot so well and just put so much pressure on the basketball. We hadn’t been in this type of game this year, we needed it.
“They’re so dangerous because you can be up 10 and it takes them like 30 seconds to break that down to zero. We’re really excited to beat a good team on their home floor at this point in the season.”
Luka Balac and Bryce Schaum had 21 apiece for the Mustangs. Jeremiah Lovett had 14 points and nine rebounds and Dane Hamilton chipped in 11.
“When we’re going like that, it’s just a huge help to use because we can go to each other with confidence,” Schaum said. “It’s fun because then everyone gets going and the team plays well as a whole. This was a real big win, we hadn’t really played anyone like that this year, so it was definitely different for us.
“We had to face some adversity and I’m really happy with how the guys came out and played today and we’re ready for the next one.”
Tied at 16 towards the end of the first quarter, Munster rattled off eight straight to end the quarter and led by as much as 16, taking a ten point lead into the half.
“We just got beat up in that second quarter,” Michigan City coach Tom Wells said. “The rebounding edge for us every night is gonna be a challenge and that again was a difference-maker. I loved the fight, there are no effort problems – we just gotta get a little better playing half-court basketball.”
Michigan City (8-2) would cut the lead to as low as four in the third, but couldn’t cut it further.
“When it was their kind of game, they would stretch it out and when it was our kind of game, we’d fight back,” Wells said. “It was exactly two contrasting styles and eventually just their size and ability to score in the half-court and inside took over. They rebounded and shot the ball really well too, son of a gun did they shoot it well.
The Wolves also put four players in double figures paced by Jamie Hodges Jr.’s 26 points and five rebounds. Tahari Watson knocked down three triples and had 18.
Omarion Hatch added 13 and Evan Bush posted 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
“We can take so much out of this game, like the experience in end-of-game stuff that we really haven’t had to do since we haven’t had a lot of close games,” Wells said. “That’s a senior team that’s big and strong and they do what they do so well. This game will do us well, that was a tournament, DAC type of game and a lot of experience can be taken away from that.”
City, which hadn't played since Jan. 5, opens Duneland Conference play Friday against county rival La Porte on what will be Senior Night for the Wolves.
“We’ve been off for a week and there were two days in a row we got to play,” Wells said. “We need to play another two days and really get after each other in practice (Wednesday) and kind of jump back on the horse, so to speak.”