Packers pull off dramatic comeback to clip Cards 54-49.
By Ken DeLaat
The very definition of 'barn burner' took place at Fremont High School Friday night. A game that featured a cool and confident Cardinal squad that had won their first four games. Not, perhaps in the dominant fashion they displayed the past couple of years when the Cards commanded the conference and posted just 5 regular season losses over 2 seasons. Those Demetri Martin led teams blew teams out of the gym early and often but Martin is now plying his trade at D-II Northwood University.
Still, they were undefeated and played with the swagger that comes from being accustomed to winning. Braeden Childress, Jackson Lund and Dorian Martin can shoot it or sling it around to a talented group of collaborators and the Cardinals have several who can hit from a distance.
The Pack could have easily been back on their heels a bit. After a promising start with a pair of wins over less talented teams they were deftly handled by Sparta.Three days later the Pack traveled north and took a drubbing in that haven of horror for visiting teams the Coyotes call home. They limped back to Fremont having put up just 30 points and once again committing an ocean of turnovers as they had in the Sparta game.
But that was then.
When Calvin Miller hit the first bucket he gave the Packers the only lead they would have for the next 29 ½ minutes. Childress answered with a triple, the first of 11 straight Cardinal points before marksman Bailey Baddis nailed a vital shot from beyond the arc halfway through the period to stem the tide a bit. Lund knocked down 2 in a row for the visitors as the quarter was winding down and it looked like trouble for Fremont with the Cards holding a 10 point edge and getting ready to pull away.Carter Moon got sent to the line for the Packers and drained both shots then after a quick stop Miller cashed in with a basket to end the first with the Fremont deficit down to a half dozen.
The second quarter saw the Pack fighting to stay within reach of the quickstrike Cards. BR pushed the lead to 9 only to see Miller and Logan Karnemaat whittle it down to 5. A 3 pointer by Childress boosted the lead to 8 before the hosts began breaking the press with Ben Schmidt finding Karnemaat on a half court pass, Baddis firing in another baseline triple and Miller muscling in a basket to knot the game at 23.
BR returned blows getting another Childress three before a late untimely foul got Lund to the line for a pair and the teams went to intermission with the Cards up 28-23.
The teams came out of the locker room and began what looked like a prize fight. BR fired in baskets while Fremont countered with 3 pointers from Wyatt Kaastra, Baddis and Miller as they inched their way back within a point before BR ran off the last 6 to enter the final frame holding a 41-34 edge.
Early in the 4th the Cards jumped out to a 9 point lead and were looking to deliver the final punches for the win, but the Packers weren’t ready to go down.
Kaastra electrified a crowd who had been quieted by the most recent Cardinal run by ripping a three. The Pack followed with a defensive stop and got the ball back into the hands of Baddis who promptly fired in his fourth 3 pointer followed by another Kaastra triple off another stop. BR fell short again and when Miller tied the game with a hard fought bucket the home crowd roared its approval.
Now the Cardinals seemed to be the team under pressure as an unforced turnover resulted in a Karnemaat basket and with 2 ½ minutes left in the game The Pack had finally regained the lead.
A lead they would not let it go of again.
The last minutes were a blur. The Cards turned it over again. They called time out to regroup. They were forced to foul 4 times to get Fremont into the penalty and when they finally did, Schmidt hit the front end of the 1:1 to stretch the lead to 3. The next possession the Cards tried a quick three that landed in the hands of Miller.
The final half minute saw the visitors desperately trying to make something happen but the Packers were not about to let this one get away.
They had crawled back from a double digit deficit against a team that had not lost a conference game in their last 34 tries. They had picked themselves up after a disastrous defeat and willed their way to an important win.
This was their game. They owned it.
And the Packer crowd showered them with affection for the way they earned it.
Miller had an outstanding night with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks. He was an absolute workhorse in the paint. The 4 triples by Baddis netted him an even dozen points and Karnemaat also reached double figures in scoring with 10 points to go with his 7 rebounds and 5 blocks. Ben Schmidt had 9 assists in addition to putting on a defensive clinic.
“I'm very proud of my boys tonight, facing adversity throughout the game and just competing and battling through it,” said Coach Zerfas. “If we continue to compete and battle like that we will be ok.”
Fremont (3-2, 2-1) finds themselves in a five way tie for first place in the Gold after Grant knocked Reed City from the undefeated ranks Friday. They will travel to Central Montcalm (3-4, 1-2) for a Tuesday game.