Big Rapids eliminates Reed City in districts

REED CITY — This season, the third time was the postseason charm for the Big Rapids Cardinals.

A year after falling to Reed City in the Class B girls basketball district despite a 2-0 regular-season record against the Coyotes, Big Rapids made it 3-0 this season with Monday's 47-31 opening-round district game against the host school.

Big Rapids (17-4) plays at Reed City against Cadillac at 7 p.m. in Wednesday's semifinal game. The season ends for the Coyotes (10-11).

Big Rapids fired out to a 28-11 halftime lead, but the Coyotes made a serious run in the third quarter.

"We dug a hole to begin with and that was huge," Reed City coach Brian Koopman said. "I'll give these kids credit. We have (Alyssa) Olds out (with an injury). We got into foul trouble and I thought these kids stepped up. They battled. We could have easily rolled over and died."

Alanna Nelson's 3-pointer and Kamryn Myers' free throw cut the Cardinal lead to 30-24. Jayla Strickland scores to get the Cardinal offense back on track. Big Rapids was up 32-25 going into the fourth.

"It wasn't pretty, but it was a tale of two halves for sure," Big Rapids coach Jessica Haist said. "As far as the first half goes,  the big thing was our energy. We came out, were excited and ready. But I knew at halftime we were flat. That's always my biggest fear. We have to find a way to come out with high energy."

Myers hit three straight free throws early in the fourth to keep Reed City close. Alexis Lyman had a 3-pointer and two free throws moments later and Strickland's layup gave Big Rapids a 39-28 lead with 5:44 to play. Emily Libey fouled out midway in the quarter and a Strickland putback made it 43-31. The Coyotes weren't able to score the rest of the way and Big Rapids secured the win.

"We didn't lay down and die, but we stopped their momentum," Haist said. "When you play a team and you know the kids as well as we know each other, it's hard. It's hard to play three times in a row and find different things to do. I thought our kids hung in there and didn't back down. They dug deep when they needed to.

"You have to give Brian and his kids credit. They always play hard and never quit and they always get after it."

"That game is a lot closer than the score indicates, I think," Koopman said. "To play like we did, I'm very proud of them."