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Northwestern tourney semifinals set after hosts' close Tuesday wins

As reported to LCL
Area high school basketball report

MENDON — Host Northwestern advanced both of its teams into the championship semifinals of its 65th-annual invitational high school basketball tournament Tuesday (Dec. 1, 2020) with strong finishes.

The NHS victories over Higbee set the tournament's semifinals-round pairings for tonight and tomorrow (Dec. 2-3).

Tonight, only two games will be required, since Bucklin/Macon County R-4 had to back out of the tourney late last week. The boys' consolation semifinal between Linn County and Higbee will be first at 5:45 p.m., followed by the Hale/Bosworth girls facing Higbee at 7 o'clock.

Thursday's championship semifinals schedule is: 4:30 p.m. – (girls) Linn County vs. Green City; 5:45 – (boys) Hale/Bosworth vs. Green City; 7:00 – (girls) Meadville vs. Northwestern; 8:15 – (boys) Meadville vs. Northwestern.

Here are recaps of games thus far in the tournament:

TUESDAY

With Higbee headed into the Carroll-Livingston Activity Association – joining Northwestern and 10 other schools – next year, the preview of future league action saw the host Eagles and Lady Eagles prevail in both the 51-50 girls’ thriller and boys’ 60-52 contest.

Northwestern’s girls (1-1) found themselves behind 18-5 after one quarter, but patiently climbed back into contention. By halftime, they were within 28-21 and entered the final frame in a brand-new game, tied at 35.

Higbee’s Lady Tigers finally stabilized themselves and took the game right down to the wire, thanks to Macey Whisenand’s trey and 7-of-9 foul shooting. However, with better scoring balance, the Lady Eagles came out ahead when veteran Halie Smith scored the last six of her game-high 23 points and Alayna Adams and Alexa McCollum netted five apiece in the last eight minutes.

McCollum and Adams likewise each totaled 12 points as that trio accounted for all except four NHS markers.

Higbee was led by Alie Mitchell’s 16 points and Whisenand had 13. Interestingly, Lady Tiger Addie White drilled three first-quarter triples to account for half of her team’s strong start, but did not score again.

The boys’ contest was close through and, like the girls’ game before it, was all-square at 38-38 going to the last stanza.

There, the Eagles (2-0) took flight on offense behind returning starters Hunter Stockwell and Clayton Gregory, out-scoring HHS 22-14.

Stockwell, who missed the last part of last season with an injury, netted the last eight of his game-high 20 points in the period and Gregory tacked on seven. For the game, Gregory had 15, ripping the cords three times outside the arc, and Isaac Zahner, another returnee, rang up 17 points.

Higbee also put three scorers in double digits. Jordan Fuemmeler had four treys and a team-high 17 points. Derek Rockett was right behind with 16, also including four 3s, and Keetum Redifer popped home 11 tallies.

MONDAY

In girls’ play, top seed Meadville romped past short-suited Hale/Bosworth 77-10 and No. 3 seed Linn County bested Brunswick 45-37.  On the boys’ side, Meadville – seeded second, but minus one of its top returnees – had a bit of trouble with Linn County before prevailing 54-43, and No. 4 seed Hale/Bosworth cranked in eight 3-pointers in routing Brunswick 62-37.

With Trey Gannan and others unavailable, Meadville’s boys (2-0) needed a strong second half to prevail over their in-county rivals.

Turning to veteran Conner Fletcher, the Eagles doubled their first-half scoring output in the third quarter, turning a 24-22 intermission deficit into a 44-35 lead and essentially maintaining that spread the final eight minutes.

Fletcher fired in 16 third-period points – six deuces and 4-of-4 free-throw work – on his way to a game-best 26 points. However, there was decent scoring depth behind him with Riley Ryan netting eight points and Blayne Burks and Parker Hammond seven apiece.

Linn County’s Mustangs, in their opener, received 13 points from veteran Cody Murrell and had either five or six markers from a handful of others as their upset bid fell short.

Led by Mallory Dennis’ 17, all nine Meadville Lady Eagles (2-0) who dressed out scored at least three points. The MHS snipers connected 10 times from beyond the arc with seven of the nine Lady Eagles doing so once or twice.

In addition to Dennis’ 17 tallies, Kiera Holcer netted 13 and Maggie McLain 11. Lilly Raymo chipped in eight.

Already hurting from graduation losses, Hale/Bosworth, which had to scratch two of its seven team members for its 2020-21 debut, received seven points from Karter Burnside.

Only four Linn County Lady Mustangs got into the scoring column, but all had at least eight points in the 8-points triumph over Brunswick that tipped off both sides’ seasons.

LCHS led only 21-19 at the half after a dead-even opening stanza, but seven Jenna Hoerrmann points keyed a 12-5 third-quarter advantage for the Lady Mustangs and they remained in front by about that gap.

Hoerrmann posted a team-leading 14 points, but Morgan Livingston chipped in 12, Alyssa Bukovac 11, and, off the bench, Martha Brosdahl eight. Brunswick returning starter Addi Riley paced all scorers with 19.

With Drake Heussner and Tristian Crose each finding the mark from 3-points land three times and forward Jaeden Sears powering in nine points in the first quarter only two nights after completing the football season with Southwest Livingston, Hale/Bosworth’s Cardinals debuted with a runaway, 25-points win over Brunswick.

Sears scored nine of the Cardinals’ 11 first-stanza points, keeping the game even going to the second, where Hale/Bosworth caught fire from outside. The eventual winners buried four treys in the second period to jump to an 11-points halftime lead and kept going from there.

Heussner finished with a team-best 20 points, Sears with 18, and Crose with 17. Brunswick’s Gus Kussman led all scorers with 21.