BIG RAPIDS — It was expected to go down to the final minute of play, and it did.

But by pulling out a 62-52 Central State Activities Association Gold Division over Reed City on Friday, the Big Rapids Cardinals also clinched the league title.

Demetri Martin scored 21 points and Christian Hector added 14 as Big Rapids (14-2, 10-0) made it two straight this season over Reed City (10-8, 5-5).

Big Rapids snuck out a 55-53 win at Reed City earlier this season.

It’s Big Rapids’ fifth league title in the last six seasons. 

“It means we have good kids who play hard,” Big Rapids coach Kent Ingles said. “I think we can play even harder than we did tonight.”

Big Rapids had a 15-14 edge after the first quarter.

Andre Jones, who netted a dramatic 40-foot buzzer-beater to defeat Grant earlier in the week, hit a 3-pointer early in the second for Reed City. Davis’ two free throws gave Big Rapids a 20-18 lead. Brenton Childress for Big Rapids and Jones traded field goals to end the half in a 24-24 tie.

Martin made a fancy move to the basket for a 29-28 Cardinal lead at 4:50. Davenport followed with two straight baskets for a 33-28 lead. Collin Hatfield later tied the game with a 3-pointer. Big Rapids battled to a 39-38 lead after three quarters.

The two teams took it to the wire in the fourth quarter, with neither team leading by more than three points the first seven minutes. Then came a critical moment with 50.7 seconds to go when Martin was fouled and a technical was called on the Coyotes. Martin hit both free throws and Kenny Davis hit both technicals for a 57-52 lead with 50.7 seconds to go. Reed City was forced to foul and the Cardinals put the game away with free throws. Martin ended it with a slam dunk.

“Martin really hurt us,” Reed City coach Dean McGuire said. “It was close then the fouls (and technical) hurt.”

Jeffrey Davenport added 11 points and Davis had 10 for the Cardinals.

“It was a good crowd, good high school basketball game and two teams that played hard,” Ingles said. “We were fortunate to come out on top again.”

Mykel Dillard led Reed City with 15 points and Jones added 12. The two teams could meet again in districts.

“We have to work hard and cut down on mistakes toward the end of the game,” Dillard said.

The game was played as part of Alzheimer’s Awareness in recognition of former Big Rapids teacher and coach Al Beamer, who was honored before the boys contest.

“We were happy to partake in that,” McGuire said, referring to a previous working relationship with Beamer.

Reed City ends the regular season at home against Chippewa Hills on Friday night.

“We’ll be focusing on the defensive end, like we always do,” McGuire said. “We have to increase our offensive efficiency a little bit.”