Reed City overcomes fast Evart start for nonleague victory

REED CITY — Reed City ended Evart’s undefeated basketball run Wednesday night. But it wasn’t easy.

After a slow start and double-digit deficits, the Coyotes started gaining control midway in the second quarter and went on to a 73-66 nonleague victory.

Andre Jones scored 17 for Reed City, while Mykel Dillard netted 12 and Trent Sturgell added 10. Robbie Tapling scored 24 and Danny Griffin added 23 for Evart.

“I told my guys I was proud of them,” Evart coach Kris Morgan said. “Last year, we lost to this team by 30. We came back in and ended up with only six guys on our bench. Three guys fouled out and we still ended up making a game of it. If we hit our free throws, we should win this game.”

The Wildcats (3-1) came out flying in the first quarter and enjoyed a 20-9 lead. Griffin had a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter and ignited Evart to a 23-11 lead.

Reed City (2-1) started gaining momentum and came back with Sturgell scoring six points from off the bench. Matt Mund had a 3-pointer for Reed City. But Evart was up 34-32 at halftime.

“Usually the other team at the beginning of the first quarter gets a good lead on us,” Reed City senior Schuyler Smith said. “We know it’s going to happen because of the way we play. All we do is bounce back. We have to stay together.”

Right off the opening jump ball, Evart starter Noah Drake went down from the tip with an ankle injury and didn’t return until the start of the fourth quarter.

“We came out early and had little bit of fire although one of our best players went down early,” Tapling said. “We started running like we have been the last couple of games.”

“I know (Drake) has been a very good player for them,” Reed City coach Dean McGuire. “But they came out and punched us in the mouth and we didn’t respond well at all.”

The Coyotes continued their full-court pressure and opened the third quarter with a 4-0 run. Tapling’s 3-point play gave Evart a 41-38 lead early in the quarter.

Griffin’s 3-pointer put the Wildcats up 46-43 at 2:13. Leland Yonkin netted a 3-pointer for Reed City late in the quarter for a 52-49 lead. Dillard opened the fourth with two 3-point plays and a field goal for the Coyotes who were up 60-49. Griffin also picked up his fifth foul with 6:39 to play.

Teammate Cody Pritchard fouled out 39 seconds later and Evart’s offense continued to struggle. Collin Hatfield’s 3-pointer gave Reed City a 66-55 lead at 3:39. Tapling hit a 3-pointer for a 68-63 count at 43 seconds and scored again moments later, but was called for a charge. Reed City was able to put the game away on free throws.

“After you keep pressuring and pressuring them, we slowly got back, in the game and started doing the things we wanted to do,” McGuire said. “We were fortunate at the end.”

“We kind of fell apart with their press,” Tapling said. “We fought hard. They were the better team.”

“Reed City did what they needed to do,” Morgan said. “They pressured the ball and pressed us into some bad passes and turnovers. We have to handle that pressure a little bit. We kind of swayed away from our game plan and they capitalized. We ran into some foul trouble. Losing Noah right off the start hurt. He came down from the jump ball right on the other guy’s foot and turned it right over.”

Griffin and Tapling “have been huge all year,” Morgan said. “That’s why losing Noah off the start was a (bad) break for us.”

Reed City is idle until Jan. 5 when it plays at Fremont in nonleague action. Evart is off for the holidays and plays at McBain on Jan. 5.