GLADSTONE - The Sault St. Marie Blue Devils ran all over the Gladstone Braves in the first half, using their speed and interior penetration to post a 37-21 halftime lead Saturday. But the Braves played like a much different team in the second half as they mounted an amazing comeback that fell just short, and the Blue Devils escaped with the 67-66 non-conference victory.
"I think we played really well for three quarters, and i think we might have relaxed a little bit (in the fourth)," said Blue Devils coach Bill Schomberg. "But Gladstone came at us. I give them credit, they fought until the end and it was an interesting finish that could have gone either way. It was a big win for us."
Sault St. Marie (8-3) came out shooting well right from the start and Gladstone struggled offensively, allowing the Blue Devils to build a 19-8 lead. On the final play of the first quarter, Ray'nell Anderson fired up a half-court shot that splashed through the net and he just walked off the court with a smile. It was just that kind of first half for this team.
Justin Marietti | Daily Press
Jared Hunter (34) of Gladstone leads a fast break as teammate Kyle Kleiman trails and Sault Ste. Marie’s Ray’Shon Anderson follows during their game Saturday, in Gladstone. The Blue Devils won 67-66.
Justin Marietti | Daily Press
Gladstone’s Jared Hunter works his way to the basket as Sault Ste. Marie’s Terrance Fuller defense during the first half of their game Saturday, in Gladstone. The Blue Devils won, 67-66.
The pace accelerated in the second, and Gladstone was able to get an offensive spark from Kyle Kleiman and others. However, the Blue Devils stayed hot and headed into the locker room with nearly a 20-point lead.
"We played with a lot of energy, and I think it was one of the better first halves we've played all season," Schomberg added.
Ray'Shon Anderson knocked down a triple to begin the third, and it looked like this game was going to be a blowout. However, Michael Cretens of Gladstone had other ideas, as he ignited his team by knocking down virtually every shot he took in the quarter. The Braves outscored the Blue Devils 18-14 in the third, but they were still down by 12 heading into the fourth. It was still an uphill climb if they wanted to have a chance.
Gladstone was up to the task, and they clearly had taken the momentum from the Blue Devils. Cretens and Blake Ballard played with urgency, driving to the bucket and hitting three-pointers to bring them within striking distance.
With 1:30 remaining, Cretens added another triple to his total, and Sault was only up 64-61. But Terrence Fuller of the Blue Devils got an easy basket and then came up with a big rejection on the other end. However, the Braves were not done yet.
Ballard took the ball straight to the hoop himself, and on their next possession Jared Hunter hit a huge triple to make it a 67-66 game.
Gladstone was able to get the ball back with 14.7 seconds left in the contest. Kleiman drove into the paint and got an open look, but it wouldn't drop. He grabbed his own rebound and put it up again, but that shot didn't fall either, and the Blue Devils won by the skin of their teeth.
"I think if we could have made some of those easy shots early, it would have been a different game," said Braves coach Phil Griebel. "We decided at halftime that we were going to fight to the end, and I'm proud of the guys for doing that. It would have been nice to hit that shot and win it at the end."
Cretens was a huge contributor to his team, putting up a career-high 32 points in the contest that featured five triples.
"I was feeling it, hustling and getting the ball," he said. "We should've had it."
Hunter just missed a double-double for the Braves, finishing with nine points and 13 boards. The Braves shot 50 percent from the three-point line, knocking down six of 12.
Gladstone (6-6) resumes Tuesday at Big Bay de Noc.