AE builds quick lead to snap 18-game series losing streak
TWINING — Arenac Eastern's boys’ basketball team has given AuGres-Sims all it could handle over the past several seasons. That hadn't been enough until Friday, when AE blew out to a huge early lead and held off the Wolverines for a 69-60 victory.
The win snapped an 18-game AGS win streak in the series dating to the 2001-2 season and breathed new life into the inter-county rivalry that had seen the Eagles suffer some heartbreaking losses, including a triple-overtime thriller last season that ended with only three AE players left on the floor at game's end.
"We finally put four quarters of decent basketball together," said AE coach Bob Morgan. "We didn't play to our potential, but we sure showed a lot of heart.
"The kids really wanted this game, especially Nick Phelan. That's probably the best game he has played in his career."
Phelan's clutch free throw shooting in the fourth quarter was a big reason why the Eagles were able to hold on to win. The Wolverines, who trailed by as many as 17 points in the third quarter, trimmed the lead to 64-60 with 30 seconds to play on Alex Lutz's 3-pointer. Phelan hit 5-of-6 charity shots in the final seconds to seal the win and was 11-of-15 at the line in the fourth quarter, finishing with a career-high 23 points.
"Our free throw shooting saved us," Morgan said. "We have been shooting free throws for at least 30 minutes every day. I guess it finally paid off."
The Eagles came into the game shooting just 43 percent from the line for the season but Friday they made 25-of-36 (70 percent), including 7-of-8 from Graham Morgan.
AE came out on fire in the first quarter, running off a 15-0 string over the final four minutes of the period. Morgan scored six points off offensive rebounds in that stretch, and Caleb Whitney's double-clutch 25-foot buzzer beating 3-pointer gave the Eagles a 21-5 lead.
The Wolverines cut the Eastern lead to 29-17 at the half, but the Eagles stretched it out to 46-29 late in the third quarter.
Alex Lutz and A.J. Baker scored the final four points of the third, and 3-pointers from Lutz, Connor Pendred and Chad Taylor highlighted a 13-2 Wolverine run that cut the Eastern lead to 48-42.
Phelan ended that run with a 3-pointer and the Eagles staved off AGS making 14 of 23 free throws in the fourth quarter.
The Wolverines hurt themselves with three technical fouls and a 12-of-29 performance at the line, including 5-of-18 in the first half.
"The AGS-AE game is always a lot of fun to watch and very tough to coach," Morgan said. "It's always very emotional.
"(AE girls coach) Butch Beckham has helped us a lot the last couple weeks with different offenses and defensive sets. It's very nice to have his expertise."
Graham Morgan had 19 points and 17 rebounds, while Whitney added 10 points as AE improved to 2-14 and 1-11 in North Star League play.
Taylor had 16 points; Byard added 15 points and seven rebounds; Lutz had 14 points and five steals; and Pendred added 10 points for AGS (8-10, 6-7).