Portland hits clutch free throws to top Haslett; Lansing Catholic pulls away late against Holt

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – As if Friday nights weren’t exciting enough for high school basketball, with COVID-19 affecting the 2020-21 season, Saturday’s have become just as thrilling.

The leaders in the Capital Area Activities Conference Red Division, the Haslett Vikings (11-1) welcomed in the Portland Raiders (11-2), the leaders in the CAAC White Division, for some Saturday girls hoops action.

The Raiders came in riding a five-game winning streak, and the Vikings had a chance to extend their win streak to three.

Portland took a 23-30 lead into halftime, thanks to a 7-0 run to end the second quarter.

In the second half, the game came down to free throws. With 44.5 seconds remaining, and the game tied at 35, Portland’s Ava Guilford was fouled, which led to a free throw opportunity for the junior guard.

With the Raiders’ past history at the free throw line, Portland coach Jason Haid had reason to overthink.

“We haven’t shot the ball very well, from the line, the last couple of weeks. It’s just a mental thing that we’re going to have to try and get over. I think our first couple of games we went 100% from the line, and now we’re in a stretch where we just got to get it fixed,” Haid said after the game.

The past struggles went out the door with Guilford at the line. She knocked down both, giving Portland a 37-35 lead. And then she added another free throw to secure the 38-36 win for the Raiders.

Guilford finished with a team-high 15 points.

“It takes a little bit of pressure off Ashley (Bower). Ashley has been shouldering the load for us, for a lot of the season. We know we play our best when we have two, three, four girls hovering around the double-digit mark, and we just haven’t had that as of late. For Ava to step-up like that, it takes some pressure off Ashley, it opens things up for everybody else and I’m just very proud of the way she came out tonight,” Haid said.

“I just knew our team wanted to win so bad, and I’ll do anything I can to get the team the win,” Guilford said. “When I first got in varsity, I knew that that’s a shot that I can make because no one is guarding me. I just focus on that everyday.”

In high school boys action, Lansing Catholic was in a cross-division showdown with Holt.

The Cougars were playing their second game in as many nights. On Friday, the Cougars took down Lansing Sexton in overtime, 79-74, to improve to 7-1 in the conference.

Lansing Catholic held a 39-37 lead over the Rams at halftime, and in the second half the two teams continued to go back and fourth.

Off a Jacob Howard lay-up, Holt took a 67-66 lead with 4:59 remaining in the fourth quarter. Howard led the Rams with 21 points.

However, after that bucket, it was all Cougars.

Lansing Catholic ended the game on a 15-5 run, winning the game 81-72. Junior Brody Kirkpatrick led the Cougars with 25 points and senior DJ Ferguson was right behind with 21 points. Seniors Sammy Jacobs added ten points and eight assists, and Quinn Dartt went 3-3 from three-point land, which led to a 14-point performance.

“They’re really talented young men,” Lansing Catholic coach, Brian Dartt said. “The kids are just really good leaders and they’re good followers, which is an important part of a team. We have a lot of interchangeable parts that just care about the team, and it’s team first. We’re in a good spot right now.”

One of Lansing Catholic’s top players, junior guard Alex Watters, is recovering from an ankle sprain. And although Watters can’t help on the court, he’s doing everything he can to help the team on the bench.

“Alex is stepping up. He is as every bit engaged as he was as a player. He talks to our guys, helps them out. Talks to me, helps me out,” Brian Dartt said. “And of course guys are stepping up. Brody Kirkpatrick is unbelievable as a big for us. Sammy Jacobs has been a true leader for us. And Matt DeLuca has filled in for Alex. He’s a four year high school basketball player, who’s taking his shot right now.”

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