Kingston ball handler Evan Neff (0) jockeys for position with a Big Rapids Crossroads Academy defender in Tuesday's 59-56 Cardinals' loss of the Division 4 boys' basketball regional semifinal at Kingston High School. Neff finished with 14 points.

Great game, tough loss for Kingston

KINGSTON

For the second consecutive season, Kingston brought a great effort into its boys’ basketball regional semifinal.

And for the second consecutive season, the Cardinals (19-4) fell just three points short of advancing to the regional final after their last-second shot at potentially forcing overtime missed its mark.

Big Rapids Crossroads Academy (21-1) held on to beat Kingston 59-56 in a Division 4 game that was tightly contested the whole way on Tuesday at Kingston High School.

“If a couple more shots go in for us during any part of the game, who knows what can happen,” said Kingston coach Dave Lester of the game’s close nature.

(Photo by Gary Koelzer) Kingston senior Hunter James adjusts at the rim to finish off an alley-oop pass in Tuesday’s 59-56 Division 4 boys’ basketball regional semifinal loss to Big Rapids Crossroads Academy at Kingston High School. James had a game-high 20 points for the Cardinals.

“I knew it’d be a game of runs, and I thought we kept our composure well,” he added. “It came down to making some shots late, and they did. They also made their free throws.”

BRC led 15-11 as the final seconds ticked away on the opening quarter, but a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Kingston senior Nathan Cloyd cut it to 15-14 and boosted his team’s momentum heading into the second quarter.

The second quarter was played on much the same even terms, ending with Crossroads taking a two-point lead into the locker room for halftime, 28-26.

(Photo by Gary Koelzer) Kingston senior Nathan Cloyd knocks down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first quarter in Tuesday’s 59-56 Division 4 boys’ basketball regional semifinal loss to Big Rapids Crossroads Academy. He contributed 13 points to the Cardinals’ efforts.

Led by Hunter James’ game-high 20 points, Kingston shaved a point off its deficit after three quarters at 43-42, but the free-throw shooting Lester alluded to saw the Cougars make 7 of 8 at the line in the game’s final two minutes to help account for the final margin of victory. Evan Neff followed James with 14 points for the Cardinals, while Cloyd finished with 13 points.

Crossroads was led by Britton Angell, a Concordia signee who averages 23.6 points per game, with 17 points on the night. Cody Carlson contributed 14 points for the Cougars.

“We had a feeling we were going to play them,” said Lester, who’d been scouting Crossroads in anticipation of an impending matchup. 

“Our kids were prepared and followed our gameplan to perfection, but to their credit, they made some shots,” he added of the Cougars’ own brand of resiliency they displayed. “Our goal was to take away Angell, and we did a good job on him, but he’s a very good player.”

Lester noted Crossroads has made a remarkable turnaround from last year’s 7-14 season.

(Photo by Gary Koelzer) Kingston’s Aaron Koehler lofts a shot over the outstretched arms of a Big Rapids Crossroads Academy defender in Tuesday’s 59-56 Cardinals’ loss of the Division 4 boys’ basketball regional semifinal at Kingston High School.

“They were only 7-14 last year, but they added two transfers,” he said. “We knew about Angell; he’s been there. But there are other guys who made some big shots for them, and that’s what you’ve got to have at this time of the year.”

It was a tough end to a great season season for the Cardinals that saw them achieve a breakthrough with a win over last year’s regional champion International Academy of Flint in one of the teams’ two North Central Thumb Stars Division matchups. Beating the Phoenix on the road and having it ultimately equate to a share of the league title with IAF made it even more special.

“It was a good basketball game and we fought hard,” said Lester. “It wasn’t how we wanted our season to end, but I give my guys — especially the seniors — a lot of credit for giving all they possibly had.

“It was a great effort, and I’m really proud of them for leaving their mark on the program,” he added. “They shouldn’t have any regrets at all.”

Lester said the Cardinals continue to elevate the program’s expectations.

“Our goal next year is to get to the next level,” said Lester. “We have to get better in the offseason to take that next step, and I know we’re going to work hard to do that.

“We want to win the district and the regional next year.”

Adam Smith is sports editor for The Advertiser and can be reached at sports@tcadvertiser.com.

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