GRAND BLANC — Before Tuesday’s game, Grand Blanc boys basketball coach Rob McRae said his team had overlooked Howell in the first meeting between the teams.
Not this time.
The Bobcats made this most of their second opportunity, making sure Cameron Cyborowski got the ball early and often. The 6-4 sophomore scored 22 points as Grand Blanc won the showdown for first place in the KLAA West on Tuesday, 64-50.
“He played an absolutely fantastic game,” Howell coach Nick Simon said of Cyborowski. “He gave us a lot of trouble. We didn’t hit some shots we should have, but I give them a lot of credit. I thought they played really well, and really, really hard, and that’s tough to overcome. Especially if you’re not hitting your shots.”
The win lifted Grand Blanc (10-2 overall 6-1 KLAA West) into first place, a game ahead of Howell (8-4, 5-2), with three games left in the division season.
“I told our guys that our goal now, next Friday night, at the end of the game to be sitting there (in) Brighton hoping to see that Grand Blanc lost,” Simon said. “We have to do everything we can do, let the cards fall where they may, and see if (the Bobcats) get tripped along the way.”
It might be a tall order.
Howell led 11-10 after the first quarter, thanks in part to three 3-pointers, but scored only four points in the second.
Grand Blanc, meanwhile, found a hot hand in one of its three seniors, Nick Scott, who had seven of his 13 points in the period as the Bobcats took a 23-14 halftime lead.
Howell got going after halftime, but so did Grand Blanc, which rocketed out to a 34-25 advantage before the Highlanders got going and cut the lead to four, 34-30, late in the quarter. But it was as close as they would get.
“The problem is when you get down against a good team, it takes so much energy to get back,” Simon said. “I think we did a really good job doing that. Our execution was very good. I think we mostly had uncontested layups. Then you’re geting to a point where you have to get lucky, where you have to have a break go your way, and those breaks didn’t go our way and went their way. And it’s easily an 11-point game again.”
In the fourth quarter, senior p0int guard Trey Edwards took over, scoring five points and providing poise and leadership while helping keep Howell at bay.
“I’ve been playing against him for five years, and he’s a very good player,” Howell senior Thomas Lassitter said. “He knows the situation really well, and at that point of the game, he stepped up into the moment.”
Jon Shields had 15 points, 10 in the fourth quarter, and Derek Kerner scored 10 of his 13 point after halftime for the Highlanders, who play host to Pinckney on Thursday.
“That quick turnaround gives us eyes on Pinckney right away, and a reason to forget about (the loss),” Simon said. “Our focus is on going forward, not looking back, and we can learn a lot from this. We only have four seniors, and I think we can learn a ton from this.
“We have to make sure we learn from this,” he added, “and not let (the loss) overwhelm us.”