Benzie Central's press too much for Buckley; Huskies take lead in NWC

Andrew Rosenthal, The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.
·4 min read

Feb. 20—BUCKLEY — Buckley junior Kyle Kaczanowski scores doubled digits just about any other night.

Against Benzie Central's press and junior Nate Childers' defense, nothing.

Benzie rolled past Buckley in a 56-28 in a pivotal win Friday night. The Huskies move to 4-1 in the Northwest Conference (4-2 overall) to hold the top spot for the time being. The other teams in the top three, Frankfort (3-1) and Leland (2-1), each have losses to different opponents.

And it's just going to be like that this year, Benzie coach Josh Crocker said.

The condensed scheduling brought on by COVID-19 delays forced many teams to schedule back-to-back games regularly. Both Benzie and Buckley played five games in the last eight days.

"I told our guys in the beginning of the season we're going to have our ups and we're going to have our downs just because of what a weird year it's been," Crocker said, "But whoever wins the league is probably going to have two or three losses — just because so many teams can knock somebody off on any given night."

The Huskies held the Bears scoreless until about two minutes left in the first quarter. By halftime they led by 19 and extended the lead to 30 in the fourth quarter.

Benzie's Quinn Zickert led the field with 22 points. Kevin Hubbell, Childers and Michael Wooten each added six points.

Zickert said guys like Wooten and Childers make a difference on the court even when they're not scoring. On several occasions, Wooten was the first one going for a rebound and created a paint presence at center that made it difficult to even try and shoot a layup.

"(Wooten) is our bulldog or pit bull, he's the guy who does dirty work and does a good job," Zickert said. "(Childers) is our point guard, if he doesn't set up, we couldn't do anything. We couldn't set up and play as wide without him."

Crocker said Wooten's offensive game is starting to blossom a little bit, and he likely won't be a prolific scorer. His defensive game, however, makes him hard to take off the court.

"Between the long hair and the very demonstrative personality, he is certainly one of our leaders," Crocker said. "I would say that most nights, he is our most outspoken and sort of heart and soul kind of guy on the team."

Sophomore Jackson Kulawiak led Buckley with 20 points. Tyler Milarch added seven points and the only other scorer for the Bears was Ty Breithaupt with a point.

Shelby Cade, who joined the boys team after Buckley's girls basketball program opted out of the season, is the only senior for the Bears.

"We're very, very, young," Buckley coach Jared Milarch said. "There were somethings I think we did nice tonight. I'd say it was pretty flat."

Crocker said he felt his team took a step forward Friday night, even though it might still have what he described as an emotional hangover from its 48-46 win over Glen Lake.

He said when the score got to what it was — a 20-point lead for most of the night — it felt good to put the game in cruise control.

"The game last night (against Onekama) ended up being a little sloppy on our part," Crocker said. "It was nice to see them bounce back tonight and really take care of business and really clamp down on the defensive side of things, and is it really great to see Quinn get going again."

Zickert said this year just feels different, as the Huskies look for a postseason win for the first time in five seasons. Benzie advanced to a regional game against Big Rapids in 2016, but lost in the first round of districts in every season since.

"Team spirit is up, we're getting along really good, a lot of great players put in work in the offseason," the junior said. "It's just coming together."

Benzie travels to Frankfort for its next game at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday — a three-day break after playing three games in four days.

The Panthers, however, have two games to play in that same time frame. Frankfort plays conference foe Kingsley on Saturday, and McBain Northern Michigan Christian on Monday.

"The team that has a night off the night before might be the team that wins just because they got fresh legs," Crocker said.

Buckley has a break as well. After taking the weekend off, it travels to Manistee Catholic Central on Monday.

That game tips off at 6 p.m.

Follow Andrew Rosenthal on Twitter @ByAndrewR