GARDEN CORNERS - The Superior Central Cougars are advancing to face their Alger County nemesis, but Big Bay de Noc certainly made themselves out to be more than just a mere bump in the road.
Playing tough defense, rebounding well and hitting key triples allowed the Black Bears to stay within striking distance for most of the game, but the Cougars simply had too many weapons as they overpowered Big Bay 64-45 Monday night in the MHSAA Class D district opener.
"We smelled blood, but you still have to maintain your discipline and we got a little bit out of it," said Cougars coach Herb Jenkins. "The game was really in question for a long time. They were making stops, attacking the bucket and extending the game."
The Black Bears led 8-7 midway through the first quarter, but SC got on an 8-0 run and threatened to blow the game open before BBdN's Cole Potvin hit a triple at the end of the quarter to get his team within 15-12.
The Cougars again got on a scoring binge, starting the second quarter on a 6-0 run. Toward the end of the first half, the Black Bears were still within nine points before Trevor Maki made what was likely the play of the game.
Double-teamed by Tyler DeMars and Nathan Dalgord, Maki weaved his way through and soared to the basket, just getting the shot off his fingertips and drawing the foul in the process. Maki led the Cougars with 18 points, Verbrigghe scored 16 and Steward had 13.
"We play a lot of zone and we do double team," said Black Bears coach Pat Groleau. "When Maki and Verbrigghe had the ball, we were coming after them, but they're smart ballplayers and they know when to give it up.
"They're a very good team, they have good ballplayers and they're well-coached. We're young and young kids have a tendency to go up and down."
The Cougars carried a 12-point into the second half and opened with back-to-back buckets from Matt Verbrigghe and Dan Steward. The Black Bears answered with triples from Zach Pomeroy and Potvin, but SC simply overwhelmed Big Bay as they kept feeding it to the hot hand. Maki, Steward and Verbrigghe all scored in bunches at one point or another throughout the game.
"Maki had a ton of assists tonight and he found people," said Jenkins. "But the thing you'll see, is we'll hang around a 16-18 point lead and you get to that point, it's almost like the kiss of death. You don't want to lose the momentum."