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Senior Mustang making sure Portage moves on

PORTAGE — Senior forward Demetri Miller was a force at both ends of the floor for Portage in Wednesday night’s quarterfinal-round District 6 Class 2A boys basketball playoff matchup as his 20 points and game-high 13 boards sparked the Mustangs to a 72-53 victory over visiting Bishop McCort.

“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.”

Kaden Claar also tallied 20 points and Preston Rainey added 11 for the second-seeded Mustangs (18-2), who led by as many as 16 in the first half and carried a 51-32 advantage into the fourth quarter before Bishop McCort (7-9) battled 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,” Portage coach Travis Kargo said. “Bishop McCort played well, and our kids rose to the challenge. We just need to be more consistent over 32 minutes.”

Bishop McCort head 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.”

The Crimson Crushers were led by Mason Nash’s 20 points, while Trystan Fornari added 12.

Portage lit it up from long distance in the early going, as Claar drained 3-of-4 from beyond the arc and Mason Kargo added another trey to help the Mustangs run out 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.

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 then scored six of the next 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,” Coach Kargo said. “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.”

BISHOP McCORT (53): Kasper 0 0-0 0, Fornari 4 2-5 12, Ortega-Andrews 4 0-0 8, Z. Dudinack 0 0-0 0, Crocco 4 0-0 8, Nash 8 2-3 20, Stevens 2 1-1 5, Duncan 0 0-0 0, Beppler 0 0-0 0, Burkhart 0 0-0 0, K. Dudinack 0 0-0 0, Urban 0 0-0 0, Pfeil 0 0-0 0. Totals — 22 5-9 53.

PORTAGE (72): Claar 7 2-2 20, Zatek 0 2-4 2, Miller 8 4-7 20, K. Kargo 1 3-4 5, Rainey 3 5-6 11, M. Kargo 2 0-0 5, Miko 4 0-0 8, Gouse 0 1-2 1. Totals — 25 17-25 72.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Bishop McCort 6 14 12 21 — 53

Portage 16 17 18 21 — 72

3-point goals: Bishop McCort 4 (Fornari 2, Nash 2); Portage 5 (Claar 4, M. Kargo 1).

Records: Bishop McCort (7-9); Portage (18-2).

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