By Joseph Hayes
ARMADA — It didn’t come easy.
But what does this time of the year? The Croswell-Lexington boys basketball team got off to a slow start Monday in its Division 2 district game against Marysville.
So much so that head coach Lance Campbell would call time out and give the Pioneers a firm ‘pep talk’ to jolt them out of their early funk.
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It would pay off in the long run, as the Pioneers kept their impressive season alive with a 60-49 victory over the Vikings at Armada High School.
“Marysville did exactly tonight what we thought they would do,” coach Campbell said. “They played aggressive, they played with passion, they are very disciplined and structured and they came to play.”
Hunter Soper scored 15 points to pace the Pioneers (19-1) and Tyler Johnson added 13 points. Saige Slanec scored 11 points and Isaac Espinoza had nine points for Cros-Lex.
Logan Wright and Lawrence Smafield each scored 11 points for the Vikings. Hayden Holdburg added nine points.
“I thought our first two or three minutes we were very tentative,” coach Campbell said. “We didn’t play with a lot of passion and it’s a win or go home. It’s not the tenth game of the season where you lose you get to come back tomorrow and we get to practice. You lose now and you turn in your uniform and you go start another sport.”
After the early slow start, Cros-Lex would recover and take a 32-26 lead into halftime and then began pulling away in the third quarter.
The catalyst was Soper, who recorded back to back steals, a block under the basket and a three-point play on the other end.
By the time the quarter concluded, the Pioneers led, 47-32, and would never look back.
Marysville would pull within 52-44, with 3:22 remaining to play, but the Pioneers lead would never be in danger.
Armada defeated Almont, 46-37, in the other game of the night. Cros-Lex advances to face Imlay City at 6 p.m. Wednesday back in Armada.
Meanwhile, the host Tigers will face Yale at 7:30 p.m. The winning teams will square off for the district title at 7 p.m. Friday in Armada.
Marysville ends the season 8-13.