EVART — The wait was well worth it for second-year Evart varsity boys basketball Kris Morgan Friday night.

Nate Struble scored 14 points while Jonathon Hooker and Jacob Hopkins added 10 apiece to lead the Wildcats to a 52-43 victory over Beal City, the Highland Conference’s first-place team.

Beal City had entered the game at 6-0 in the league.

The Wildcats improved to 4-6 overall and 3-3 in the league.

“We had a good scouting report and my assistants watched them play Sacred Heart earlier,” Morgan said. “We had a pretty good idea of who their shooters were. We knew they were going to push the ball. We just needed to execute. I was waiting for two years for a game like this.”

Beal City fell to 9-4 overall.

The Wildcat defense forced 21 Beal City turnovers. Evart committed 17 miscues.

“It feels great,” Struble said. “We came out and played solid defense. We didn’t make too many turnovers in the second half. That really helped us out.”

The Wildcats started out strong with a 15-11 first-quarter lead and it appeared the Aggies had regained control with a 25-22 halftime advantage.

But Evart came out strong in the third quarter and led 31-25 on a drive from Devon VanOrder. Struble hit two free throws late in  the third quarter for a 37-28 lead. Beal City went on a 5-0 run to end the third.

Hooker’s 3-pointer with 4:36 to play put Evart up 47-35. The Wildcats had a 49-35 lead before the Aggies went on a 7-0 run to get back in it.

But Beal City couldn’t connect on key shots down the stretch. Hopkins hit a free throw late in the game for a 50-43 lead. Hooker scored off his own steal with 52 seconds left to give the Wildcats a solid 52-43 lead.

“We played all right defense,” Morgan said. “We kind of mixed our 1-3-1 in a little bit. They missed some shots and we tried to cover their shooters a little bit. Our man-to-man was solid too.”

Struble also had 10 rebounds and three steals while VanOrder had six rebounds.

“I told the guys to celebrate this, but now this is our expectation,” Morgan said. “This is what we can do on a night-to-night basis.”

Ironically, the Wildcats played at Beal City for a quick rematch Tuesday night. That game was rescheduled from earlier in the season.

“They’re going to be fired up,” Morgan said of the Aggies.