Defense shines for Clippers in victory over Saugatuck
Having lost its first three games of the season, the Martin boys’ basketball team was in need of a boost.
The Clippers got just that in the form of a smothering defensive effort in their home game against SAC Lakeshore foe Saugatuck on Friday, Dec. 20.
Limiting the Indians to 11 points through the first three quarters, Martin posted the 58-36 win to improve to 1-3 heading into a two-week hiatus during Christmas break.
“It was definitely nice to get a win heading into break,” Martin coach Bradley Moelker said. “Our other games had all been pretty close, so it would have been frustrating going into the break 0-4.”
Instead, it was Saugatuck coach Brian Ward was left feeling frustrated by his team’s offensive struggles against the Martin defense.
The Indians, who trailed 30-7 at halftime, went 2-of-20 for a 10-percent shooting percentage in the opening half.
“We had probably one of the coldest shooting nights in the history of the program,” Ward said. “We could not get anything to fall.”
Despite the difficulties Saugatuck ultimately endured from a shooting standpoint, the game actually started fairly well for the Indians.
After winning the opening tip, Saugatuck took a quick lead as Joey Antel knocked down a 3-pointer. Then, following a basket by Martin’s Collin Coburn, the Indians got two more points on a pair of free throws from Antel to take a 5-2 lead.
That, however, would be the last points Saugatuck would score for the next 13 minutes, 15 seconds. Martin, meanwhile, scored 21 points during that stretch to take a 23-5 edge.
A basket by Connor Seifert eventually ended the drought for Saugatuck, but Martin scored the final seven points of the opening half, including the final four from Mitchell Jager.
“Our defense in the first half was some of the best I have seen out of our squad,” Moelker said. “We created a lot of transition opportunities through our defense, but it also just helped us keep our intensity for long periods of time.”
That defensive dominance continued into the third quarter, with Martin holding Saugatuck to four points to take a 38-11 advantage to the fourth quarter.
“Obviously, defense is a whole-group effort,” Moelker said. “But I thought Travis Thorne and Ethan Gillihan really stood out.
“Travis was constantly pressuring the ball trying to make their players as uncomfortable as possible. Ethan had the task of defending a pretty dangerous post threat in (Tommy) Beckman. (Gillihan) made every catch difficult and really limited (Beckman’s) opportunities.”
Saugatuck did find its offensive rhythm in the fourth quarter, scoring 25 points. But it was a case of too little, too late as the Clippers added 20 points to their total.
“I don’t think we’ll ever shoot that poorly in a half again all season, but the message I told the boys to focus on was that our defense didn’t do enough to keep us in striking distance,” Ward said. “We need to play better team defense to help us get through poor shooting nights.”
Jager led a trio of Clippers in double figures with 18 points, followed by Cayden Curry with 14 and Coburn with 10. Gillihan and Thorne added seven and five respective points.
“Mitchell had a great shooting night,” Moelker said.
Ryan Shanahan led the way for Saugatuck with 11 points. Alec Hoezee had nine.