Mar. 4—PORTAGE — The Portage boys’ basketball team got off to a fast start on its home floor in Wednesday night’s District 6 Class 2A quarterfinal playoff contest against Bishop McCort Catholic, and the Mustangs were able to hold off a fourth-quarter rally by the Crimson Crushers and eventually pull away for a 72-53 victory.
The second-seeded Mustangs (18-2) led by as many as 16 in the first half and took a 51-32 advantage into the fourth quarter before Bishop McCort (7-9) roared back to pull within 10 with less than six minutes to play. However, Portage answered the challenge with a 12-0 run to take control down the stretch and earn the right to host United in a Saturday night semifinal.
“It’s March, so the goal is to survive and advance,” said Portage coach Travis Kargo. “Bishop McCort played well and our kids rose to the challenge. We just need to be more consistent over 32 minutes.”
Demetri Miller and Kaden Claar each scored a team-high 20 points for the Mustangs, with Miller adding a game-best 13 rebounds.
“I stuck to my roots, which for our team was rebounding,” Miller said. “Our guards were able to penetrate and kick the ball to me for some easy buckets.”
Preston Rainey finished with 11 points for Portage.
Bishop McCort coach Chris Pfeil praised his team’s effort.
“I’m proud of how we didn’t quit and competed right to the very end,” he said. “We got down and had to expend a lot of energy to get back into it, but we had too many turnovers, wasted possessions and just didn’t execute well enough.”
McCort was led by Mason Nash’s 20 points, while Trystan Fornari added 12.
Portage lit it up from long range in the opening quarter, as Claar hit 3 of 4 from beyond the arc and Mason Kargo added another trey to help the Mustangs sprint to a 16-6 lead.
That momentum carried into the second quarter as Portage opened the period with a 9-3 run capped off by Miller’s three-point play that made it 25-9 at the six-minute mark.
Nash then scored five of the next six Crimson Crusher points to close the gap to 10, but Koby Kargo’s layup in the final minute of the half allowed the Mustangs to build a 15-point edge before going to the break with a 33-20 advantage.
The Mustangs continued to steadily expand their lead in the third quarter as Claar and Miller combined for 12 points in the period. Miller opened the third with a three-point play, and Portage closed the quarter on a 7-1 run to go up by 19 heading into the fourth.
However, Bishop McCort refused to fold. The Crimson Crushers stormed back with a 14-5 surge keyed by six straight Nash points and a three-point play by Colin Stevens that pulled McCort within 56-46 at the 5:44 mark.
Andrew Miko scored six of the next eight Portage points to spark a game-clinching run that was capped off by Miller’s layup that made it 68-46 with just over two minutes remaining.
“That’s the sign of a veteran team,” said Coach Kargo. “We had a lapse but were able to respond.”
“It means a lot to get to the next round,” Miller said. “We have four seniors, it’s our last year, and it means a lot to these guys.”