Growth through the struggles
MICHIGAN CITY — With senior leader Rayshon Howard on the bench in street clothes due to an illness, Michigan City coach John Boyd started a pair of freshmen in Omarian Hatch and Jevon France, along with sophomore Evan Bush in Howard’s place against a long and lengthy Munster (12-1) side with their lone defeat of the season coming back on Dec. 14.
The five rotation guys off the bench for Boyd in the 59-46 defeat to the Mustangs? Freshman, junior, sophomore, sophomore and sophomore.
“I thought they fought again tonight,” Boyd said after his team’s seventh defeat in the last nine games following a 4-1 start to the season. “I thought we kept it close enough tonight to maybe pull one out. I thought we got in some trouble in some points in the game and that’s what costed us.”
One of those spurts in the contest came in the final 5:19 of the second quarter, where the Mustangs outscored the Wolves 16-5 to take a 29-22 lead into the locker room after City (7-8) started the frame with an 8-0 run on the back of two triples from Dez’Mand Hawkins and Daijon Reddix. That gave them a 17-13 lead into a Munster timeout after trailing 13-9 following the first period.
Boyd gave credit to Munster’s 6-foot-9 backup center Dorian Benford, who registered a double-double off the bench with a game-high 13 points and 10 rebounds, including eight of those 13 points in the third stanza on 4-of-5 shooting to push a six-point Mustang lead at the 4:19 mark out to 12 at 42-30 with just eight minutes to play.
“They didn’t really have anything going on offensively from out on the perimeter,” Boyd said. “Their big guy, number 35, he went on a little stretch where he scored four in a row for them. He made some big plays and big rebounds. We were trying our best to box them out with our size, but there’s no such thing as over the back [laughs]. That’s a good team, though. They’re 12-1 for a reason. They don’t make a lot of mistakes.”
Along with Benford’s dominance in the paint on both ends of the floor which also included a pair of blocks, the Mustangs were able to keep the Wolves at bay in the final quarter, only letting the lead get as close as six again before pulling comfortably away after five straight Jaivion Reid points for City to start the quarter. Six different Mustangs scored in the quarter, led by senior guard Nick Fies scoring five of his eight points on the evening down the stretch to help finish off the Wolves.
“I thought we got stagnant throughout the game and our young kids stopped taking shots because they weren’t hitting any,” Boyd said. “I think they were thinking, ‘I’m not hitting anything, so I don’t wanna shoot it anymore.’ That’s immaturity. You keep shooting the ball. You keep playing. We hurt ourselves.”
On a night where City missed 40 of its 56 shot attempts from the field, including 21 of their 27 attempts from long range, a bright spot was the freshman France, who scored a team-high 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and registered three assists, along with a kamikaze dive for an offensive rebound into the Munster bench with 1:13 left before halftime with the Wolves down 26-22.
“Jevon plays steady,” Boyd said. “He plays within himself. He can score the ball. He makes good plays. He’s getting better. He didn’t come from a structured enviroment, but he’s starting to understand the pace of the game and how it goes. I was really impressed the way conducted himself tonight.”
With county and conference rival La Porte (8-5) awaiting the Wolves in their annual matchup on Friday night, the hope for Boyd and the Wolves is not only to get Howard healthy and back on the floor, but to pick up a much-needed win to snap a four-game slide and to pick up their first win in the Duneland Conference this season.
“It’s a big game,” Boyd said on the rivalry. “They’re playing really well and they’re much improved this season. We’ve gotta go out and stay close. My thing with our young team is to just try and stay close, limit your turnovers, hit some big shots, which ... some of those things didn’t happen tonight.”
Munster 59, Michigan City 46
Jevon France led the Wolves with 12 points, but the visiting Mustangs got 13 points and 10 rebounds off the bench from Dorian Benford.