His team having played its most complete game on defense all season, Utica boys basketball coach Dave Hinkle was pleased with a 12-point lead and only 3:30 left.
Three minutes of game time later a New Baltimore Anchor Bay 3-pointer knotted the score at 55.
“They came roaring back,” Hinkle said. “We didn’t handle their pressure well.”
Utica junior forward Nik Gjonaj found himself with the ball and fouled. He sank both free throws, ending his night with eight points and six rebounds, putting Utica up 57-55. Moments later a free-throw line jumper clanged off the rim for Anchor Bay, Utica collected the rebound and dribbled out the clock for a slim, MAC Blue home victory on Friday night.
Senior guard Joan Benishi led Utica (2-5, 2-1) with 21 points.
“He (Benishi) did a little bit of everything,” Hinkle said. “He hit some 3s, but he got to the free-throw line 10 times. We’ve been trying to get to the free-throw line better as a team. He got to the basket five other times for easy layups. He’s our best guy attacking the basket.”
Senior forward Andrea Pjetri scored 14 for Utica.
“He (Pjetri) knocked down a couple 3s, too,” Hinkle said. “His teammates were able to create open shots for him near the basket.”
Utica had averaged 71 points allowed per game, but going into the fourth quarter had only given up 34 to Anchor Bay (4-3, 1-2). Hinkle said he thinks his team is capable of more defensive performances like Friday’s as long as it brings the same intensity in future games.
“We have to continue to play defense like we did tonight. We had better buy-in and effort on the defensive end than we have all season.”
Riley Vermander scored 19 and Blake Busuttil 16 for Anchor Bay.
More boys basketball
Birmingham Groves 53, Troy Athens 50 (OT): Aaron Simpson scored 17 and Devin White added 14 for Groves (4-3, 2-0 OAA White). Josh Seifret had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Jordan Sebagh and Maks Sidorowicz each scored 12 for Athens (1-5, 0-2).
Dearborn Divine Child 64, Southfield Christian 61: Parker LePage scored 29, Kyle Gurney had 14 and Cam Urbanick added 12 for Divine Child (6-0). John Sanders scored 19 for Southfield Christian (3-3).
Detroit Cristo Rey 53, Chesterfield Austin Catholic 34: Satchel Love scored 16 for Cristo Rey (3-5, 2-3 Catholic). Alex Kreft scored 19 for Austin (0-5, 0-4).
Detroit Edison 53, Romulus 50: Raynard Williams had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Jadha Shepard 12 points and seven rebounds for Edison (7-2). Romulus is 3-3.
Detroit Loyola 64, Macomb Lutheran North 35: Mark Mayberry had 18 points and seven rebounds, Dylan Hemphill 14 points and Chris Perry 10 points and five rebounds for Loyola (3-2, 1-0 Catholic AA). North is 2-5, 0-1.
Farmington 90, Southfield 85 (OT): Tariq Humes scored 33, Jayden Akins had 25 and Tariq Shepherd added 17 for Farmington (2-1, 1-1 OAA White). Cameron McEvans scored 26 for Southfield (3-2, 1-1).
Harrison Township L'Anse Creuse 70, St. Clair Shores Lake Shore 63: Jordon Johnson had 20 points and Brett Watts 12 while Andrew Salter added seven points with 14 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks for L'Anse Creuse (4-3, 2-1 MAC Blue). Caleb Web scored 22, Malik Hill 17 and Melik Minor 12 for Lake Shore (4-2, 2-1).
Lake Orion 64, Troy 54: Nathan Talbot scored 18 and Andrew Van Heck 12 for Lake Orion (6-1, 1-1 OAA Red). Brody Parker scored 27 and Clay Sebastian 12 for Troy (5-2, 0-2).
New Haven 74, Grosse Pointe North 38: Romeo Weems had 29 points, 11 rebounds, 10 steals, five assists and four blocks, Ronald Jeffery scored 15, and Brent Wiles had 15 points, seven rebounds and five steals for New Haven (5-1, 3-0 MAC White). Joe Ayrault scored 10 for North (2-4, 1-2).
Okemos 62, Lansing Waverly 42: Evan Thomas scored 17, Fabian Leone 11 and Zach Hetfield 10 for Okemos (8-0, 3-0 CAAC Blue). Ellis Trainor scored 11 for Waverly (5-4, 0-3).
Pontiac 75, Farmington Hills Harrison 47: DaVeaun Cole had 17 points and five rebounds, Cleontai Brown 16 points and 10 rebounds and Dominique Stovall 10 points and five rebounds for Pontiac (8-0, 2-0 OAA Blue). Markario Dell scored 10 for Harrison (3-3, 0-2).
Quincy 58, Homer 54: William Dunn had 21 points and 20 rebounds, Jordan Nelson had 15 points and eight rebounds, Caleb McCavit had seven points and five rebounds (7-0, 4-0 Big 8). Homer is 3-4, 2-1.
Warren Mott 71, Grosse Pointe South 58: De’Jon Gantz had 19 points, six assists and eight rebounds and Darius Willis scored 14 for Mott (7-1, 3-0 MAC White). Ryan Downey scored 13 for South (4-5, 1-2).
Warren Woods Tower 73, St. Clair Shores South Lake 71 (OT): Lee Veafley had 23 points and six rebounds, Charles Anderson 10 points and eight rebounds, Hasson Posey 12 points and Dwayne Ware 12 points and seven rebounds for Tower (3-3, 2-1 MAC Gold). South Lake is 3-4, 2-1.
Ypsilanti Arbor Prep 74, Novi Franklin Christian 61: Coleman Streets and Lyndon Henderson each scored 25 and Jayden Williams had 12 points and 16 rebounds for Arbor Prep (8-2). Blake Banks scored 24 and Blake Goodman added 20 for Franklin (3-3).
Dearborn Henry Ford 68, Detroit Henry Ford 19: Lachelle Austin scored 25, Zaria Bridgewater had 14 points and seven rebounds and Erielle Lindsey 13 points and 10 rebounds for Dearborn Henry Ford (2-1). Detroit Henry Ford dropped to 1-2.
Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer.