By Calli Newberry
After starting the season 4-0, the Imlay City boys basketball team found itself in a bit of a drought, having lost three consecutive games. The Spartans were able to correct that, however, with a 50-41 victory over the Yale Bulldogs on the road Tuesday night.
“It means a lot after coming off a three-game losing streak, especially winning on the road,” freshman forward Zander Nash said. “Everybody’s just in a lot better mood now and I think we’re going to have a lot better practices.”
Nash led his team with 18 points on the night, including a perfect 8-for-8 performance from the free-throw line which became key in the fourth quarter.
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The Spartans ended the first quarter on a 6-0 run, and by halftime, they held a 25-13 lead. But halfway through the third, the Bulldogs began to take control.
“They switched defenses and that messed us up for a few possessions. It took us a little while to get adjusted, but once we did, we started executing better,” Imlay City head coach Don Gauthier said. “[Yale’s] Coach Kohler is just an outstanding coach, that guy does such a great job. The team is so well-coached, he gets the most out of his kids, so we’re thrilled to come out here with a win.”
With less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter, Yale sophomore guard Ryan Monarch was fouled beyond the arc which sent him to the free-throw line. He made all three, then turned around and got a steal on defense, which he converted to three more points with a layup and another free throw. He ended the night with 18 points.
Monarch’s six points were enough to put Yale ahead 29-27. Two minutes remained in the third when the Spartans found their rhythm. They found senior guard Holden Redd with a 3-point opportunity, which he successfully executed, tying the game at 31.
Imlay City started the fourth with two quick buckets, giving the team a slightly more comfortable edge, 38-33. The Bulldogs marched back within three with 1:22 to go as Monarch sank his fourth 3-pointer of the night: 41-38.
But that’s when Nash was fouled three times and he managed to pick up six free points.
“It was hard, I’m not going to lie,” Nash said. “I had to really focus and lock my head in on just making a free throw, not anything else, not the student section or anything.”
Gauthier said despite his freshman status, Nash’s offseason training had prepared him well for the late-game victory.
“I think he’s someone who just lives in the gym. There’s no one or nothing that can put more pressure on him than he does himself,” Gauthier said. “He has high expectations for himself and all his preparation all offseason, that’s what we saw tonight”
Junior Beau Hund and senior Dominic Ljuljdjuraj each picked up a point or two from the charity stripe as well in the final minute, sending the Spartans on their way to 50 points and a victory.
Ljuljdjuraj had 10 points on the night, and Hund and Redd each added nine. Yale senior Garret Donnellon had 11 points.
“It feels good,” Gauthier said about the win. “Our kids are bought in and we’ve lost some tough games, we’ve played against some really good teams so we’re just trying to get better every day and I think we did that. We played much better tonight.”
The Spartans will return home to play Croswell-Lexington Friday night, while the Bulldogs travel to Algonac.
“Hopefully we gain a little bit of confidence,” Gauthier said. “Cros-Lex is obviously really good, they’ve got a lot of talent, but I think we’re looking forward to playing and I’m sure they are too.”