With 19 days between games, no one would have been shocked if Portage Central boys basketball team was a little rusty Tuesday night.
Coach Ray Robinson had a solution for that, though. He wanted the Mustangs to run and have fun.
Portage Central had a whole bunch of fun as it notched a 45-36 SMAC victory over visiting Battle Creek Lakeview.
‘’I was telling them that on offense, I didn’t stop you to run a play,’’ Robinson said. ‘’I wanted them to run and try to make plays on their own, even if they couldn’t do it.
‘’Basketball is a fun game and fun for people to watch. If I’m stopping them every time, I can play six or seven guys. But my bench is very deep.’’
The Mustangs (4-1 overall, 3-0 SMAC) showed that when Robinson had played eight people in the first quarter alone. And it wasn’t because of foul trouble.
‘’We’re very deep and most of them are juniors,’’ Robinson said. ‘’I could really play my 12th guy and not be concerned.’’
All told, 10 players got into the game and seven of them scored. Two of those who didn’t score had at least one rebound.
‘’Going into this season, I was looking at not an uptempo game or a slower game, but something in between,’’ he said. ‘’I told my guards they are going to have to run and move, but they will get tired. But I have four of them sitting on the bench.
‘’They have all bought into it.’’
That shows because the Mustangs have won four straight after losing the season opener to Mattawan, who was playing its third game, on the road.
With both teams playing outstanding defense, it was hard for either team to spurt out to a big lead. Until the end of the game, the largest lead for Portage Central was five when it scored the first five points of the game.
The good defense was shown in the third quarter when the Mustangs didn’t allow the Spartans a field goal attempt for the first 1:18 of the quarter. Portage Central would hold Lakeview to just two field goals in the third, but it scored just three field goals itself for a 27-24 lead after three.
The deep bench was shown when junior Eli Potts, who didn’t start, led the team in scoring with 12 points and he pulled down five rebounds. He’s one of the many in between preps who can play a number of positions.
‘’Eli does a little bit of everything,’’ Robinson said.
When asked what position the coach would like Potts to play, ‘’I just want him to be a basketball player. With Eli (6-footer), we like to find a mismatch. He’s such a good passer and he has that low center of gravity like (former Notre Dame star) Adrian Dantley.
‘’He’s like wherever I need him, he plays and he never complains.’’
Depending on what defense, or offense, Portage Central ran, Potts played basically all five positions.
Griffin Baker added nine points and four assists, Jason Mih and freshman Luke Leto each scored eight points, Bronson Wyman contributed four points and a team high seven rebounds and Jack Juday had two points.
For Lakeview (1-6, 0-4), it was Zarrion Davis with 10 points and nine rebounds.
After trailing 5-0, the Spartans surged into an 11-7 lead after the first quarter. Back came the Mustangs for a 20-19 halftime lead and a 27-24 lead after three quarters. Lakeview kept it interesting, knotting the game at 30 and 32 in the fourth quarter.
Then Mih and Potts hit back-to-back three-pointers and Baker made two free throws for a 40-32 lead with 1:44 left in the game.
Robinson uses several different defenses, going with a man-to-man and a zone, as well as a 2-2-1 full court press.
‘’We want to be defensive oriented, but it’s not our foundation,’’ he said. ‘’Being deep, that allows us to get after it on defense.’’
And it also allowed Portage Central to fight through a 19-day layoff.