Nonstop to Breslin
By John Vrancic
For The Daily News
MARQUETTE – Travel plans are in place for the North Central boys’ basketball team.
The Jets made that possible Tuesday night by topping the Cedarville Trojans 71-57 in a Class D state quarterfinal game at Marquette High School.
North Central (23-3), which began its journey downstate this morning, meets top-ranked Wyoming Tri-Unity Christian (24-2) Thursday at 6 p.m. at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.
“This is about as exciting as it can be,” said junior guard Josh Granquist, who scored nine points. “I was a little nervous coming in here, but I was also excited to play. I had a lot of butterflies right before the game, then they all went away once it started.”
Tri-Unity Christian earned its trip to East Lansing by whipping Frankfort 57-33 in another quarterfinal Tuesday.
The Jets, making their first quarterfinal appearance since 1985, scored just 20 seconds into this match-up. Junior guard Tyler Polfus drained a 20-foot jump shot from the right wing for a 3-0 lead.
“We didn’t want to come out tight, and Tyler’s three helped us get over the jitters early,” said Jets’ coach Adam Mercier. “This was a great all-around effort by our guys.”
Senior center Keith Bauschor hit a layup to pull the Trojans within 3-2 just seven seconds later.
Granquist then sank a 20-foot jumper and junior center Trevor Ekberg scored on a putback, giving the Jets an 8-2 cushion 61 seconds into the contest.
The Jets led 16-11 after the first quarter.
Cedarville opened the scoring in the second stanza when Bauschor set a pick for sophomore guard Joe Duncan. Bauschor then used a nifty spin move to receive Duncan’s pass and hit a layup to trim the Trojan deficit to 16-13.
North Central responded with a 14-0 run, gaining a 30-13 advantage on Polfus’ jumper from the left corner with 1:53 left in the second.
During that run, the North Central went two minutes, 15 seconds without scoring while holding a 23-13 lead. The Jets ended that drought when sophomore forward Rob Granquist drove the baseline for a short jumper and a 25-13 cushion.
“That was a great boost at that part of the game,” said Josh Granquist. “That really excited us and we kept playing hard.”
Cedarville, playing in its seventh quarterfinal game in eight years, scored the last two buckets in the second frame. The Trojans, however, still trailed 32-19 at halftime.
“We didn’t make some baskets in the second quarter, then we started rushing things and that got us out of rhythm,” said Cedarville coach Dave Duncan. “North Central is a good team. They made some shots early and we were fighting from behind all night.”
North Central led by as much as 47-28 late in the third quarter when Polfus sank a pair of free throws.
The Trojans, however, pulled within 53-42 on a 23-foot jumper from the right wing by senior guard Josh Hester less than two minutes into the fourth.
“There was some concern when they got within 11,” said North Central junior forward Travis Vincent, who hit 14 points. “But we felt we could stop them and came out with the W. It’s going to be awesome to play in the Breslin Center. This is just a great feeling.”
Cedarville had several chances to trim its deficit to single digits in the fourth quarter, but failed to convert.
Controlling the pace was another key for the Jets, who committed 12 turnovers.
“We knew they were going to be a real good team,” said Vincent. “We just slowed things down and tried to take high percentage shots. They’re a real fast team. We didn’t want to get into a track meet with them.”
The Jets also cashed in from the free throw line, where they sank 20-of-23.
“That’s an excellent job by our guys,” said Mercier. “We wanted to put the ball on the glass and not turn it over. We also did a great job on defense. We were able to take away their transition points. I would like to think our team speed had something to do with that. We’ve been playing loose and free and fast and physical all season, and we plan to play that way Thursday.”
Rob Granquist scored 20 points for the Jets, who will stop in Mount Pleasant today to practice at Central Michigan University. Junior forward Trevor Ekberg and Polfus added 14 apiece.
“Now, we’ll get to play on a big stage (at MSU), which will be exciting for us,” said Mercier. “We want to give credit to our community for its support. Our fans have given us great support all year, and the kids and coaches appreciate their support.”
Joe Duncan scored 13 points. Bauschor finished with 12 and Hester had 10 for Cedarville, which had 11 turnovers.
N. Central 16 16 17 22 – 71
Cedarville 11 8 16 22 – 57
North Central – Polfus 14, R. Granquist 20, J. Granquist 9, Vincent 14, Ekberg 14. FT: 20-23; F: 15; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Polfus 3, R. Granquist, J. Granquist.
Cedarville – Hecht 7, Causley 7, Hester 10, Duncan 13, Stenback 8, Bauschor 12. FT: 7-14; F: 21; Fouled out: Causley; 3-point field goals: Hecht, Hester.