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Tigers knock off state-ranked Wildcats in thrilling PTC battle

Tigers knock off state-ranked Wildcats in thrilling PTC battle


Lake Center Christian sophomore Braidon Miller releases a jump shot from the left wing during Friday’s victory over Mogadore.
Paisley Nader/Portage Sports

By Tom Nader

Publisher and Editor


This is a week that had been building for the Lake Center Christian Tigers boys basketball team.

The young goup, which features no seniors on its roster, has been growing up on the job this season and Friday may have been the jumping point for the next step.

The Tigers held off repeated rally attempts by the host Wildcats before capturing a thrilling 58-52 Portage Trail Conference road victory over state-ranked Mogadore.

Tigers head coach Greg Bryte, without hesitation, classified Friday’s triumph as his team’s most complete effort of the season.

Lake Center Christian junior point guard Tanner Norman (left) brings the ball up the court against Mogadore defender Nick Coffman.
Paisley Nader/Portage Sports

“This was our best overall performance, because we finished it,” Bryte said. “We have talked a lot lately about composure and how you will handle yourself when you are games of this magnitude. How you will handle the big situations that then happen inside those big games. Tonight, I think our guys showed themselves what they are capable of.”

For Mogadore, which entered the game ranked 10th in this week’s Associated Press state poll, it was just the team’s third loss of the season, but drops its league record to 5-2 and one game back of first place Warren JFK and St. Thomas Aquinas.

The story of the game for Mogadore was its cold shooting.

The Wildcats made just 5-of-32 in the first half and finished the game 16-of-64 (25 percent). Of those 64 shots, 41 of them were 3-pointers (64 percent of their field-goal attempts) and the Cats did not make a 2-point field goal until the 5:24 mark of the second quarter.

“Every team has shooters, but you need makers and we did not have enough makers tonight,” Mogadore head coach Russ Swartz said. “We just did not make shots. It is as simple as that. I thought we got great looks, consistently got good looks, but we never got anything going consistently.”

Mogadore junior Layne Miller has his mid-range jumper contested during Friday’s second half.
Paisley Nader/Portage Sports

The Tigers (8-8, 3-4 PTC) led 9-7 after the first quarter and never trailed again, but not without multiple Mogadore waves of momentum that seemed to crest but never crash down.

Time and time again, including a flurry of action in the fourth quarter, the Tigers found an answer.

Mogadore senior Nick Coffman tied the game, 37-37, at the 7:27 mark of the fourth quarter when he sunk a layup as he was fouled, then converted the and-one free throw.

On Lake Center’s next possession, junior Tanner Norman stepped into a top-of-the-key 3-pointer to regain a 40-37 lead for the Tigers.

Wildcats junior Layne Miller then pulled the score to 40-39 on a pair of free throws.

On the Tigers’ next possession, sophomore Braidon Miller (11 rebounds, 2 blocked shots), converted a three-point play to put his team up 43-39.

A group of the Mogadore Maniacs, holding bitmoji drawings of head coach Russ Swartz, take a break from the action during halftime. Paisley Nader/Portage Sports

Mogadore’s Miller had the answer on the other end with a 3-pointer to make it 43-42, but once again, the Tigers answered back on a 3 by Luke Underwood to make it 46-42.

It was one of three 3s for Underwood (9 points) in the game and one of many clutch moments the Tigers created throughout the closing minutes of the game.

Norman iced the game by hitting 3-of-4 free throws in the closing minute, exiting tense moments with the score 53-49 and creating some distance at 56-49.

“That is what league basketball is all about,” Swartz said. “I don’t care what level you are playing at, league games are all about who is going to gut it out and make more big plays than the other team. That is what you saw tonight.”

Norman orchested the Tigers’ offense, totaling seven assists, while also scoring 13.

Lake Center’s leading scorer was junior Matt Warder, who had an incredibly efficient night, despite being face-guarded for the majority of the game. Warder finished with 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and a perfect 8-for-8 at the free-throw line.

“It was all about effort tonight and this is a group I never have to worry about effort with, even when we are losing,” Bryte said. “We knew we could do it, but it was like the more the game went on, they started to believe they could do it.”

Coffman and Miller led Mogadore with 23 and 22 points, respectively. They combined for eight 3-pointers, with Miller hitting five and Coffman three. The duo combined to score 87 percent of the Cats offensive output.

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