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Top Dawgs: Benzie Central's Jaxon Childers scores 18 points to lift Huskies over Glen Lake in Northwest battle; first win in Maple City since 2015

Jan. 25—MAPLE CITY — The Huskies put the whole Northwest Conference on notice.

"I just have to say, people have to keep an eye out for us," Benzie Central senior Jaxon Childers said after the Huskies' 60-51 win over Glen Lake on Thursday.

"I'm happy with the outcome, and very happy with our players," Huskies' head coach Josh Crocker said.

The Huskies and Lakers entered Thursday's heavyweight contest with a chance to get a head start on claiming the Northwest Conference title. Glen Lake has built a ton of real estate in the conference by coming away as champions in five out of the last six seasons — with Benzie Central winning in 2021.

"It would mean a lot to the seniors," Benzie junior Andrew Gray said on potentially claiming the conference crown. "It's their last year, and I think we could do it."

The Huskies move to 10-2 overall and 7 — 0 in the Northwest with wins against every team — and a season sweep against Buckley. The Lakers (9-3, 6-1 Northwest) will have to wait until Feb. 16 when they face Benzie Central again.

"I learn a lot from playing a team a second time and learn from the mistakes. That's what older kids do," Glen Lake head coach Jason Bradford said.

On the court, no one had a safe lead.

Glen Lake and Benzie Central traded blows throughout the contest, and the Huskies' nine-point victory was the largest margin held by either team.

Gray and senior Miles Pritchett got things going in the first quarter, with Pritchett getting three points off the back followed by Gray drilling an open corner three to lead 6-2. Gray finished the night with 13 points, and Pritchett had 10.

Lakers' senior Cooper Bufalini and junior Benji Allen cut into the Huskies' lead to make it 6-4 before Benzie Central flipped the momentum to go on a 4-0 run.

The Lakers caught fire after a quick timeout that helped jumpstart their offense. Glen Lake collected 17 points in the first quarter to lead 17-11. That would be thire largest lead of the night.

The rest of the second quarter entailed a ping pong of lead changes as the Huskies rallied from behind after the Lakers caught fire. Childers and senior Porter Rucki dropped four of his eight points in the third quarter to help create the spark that led the Huskies' comeback and put the Lakers on their toes.

After a bevy of lead changes, the Lakers entered halftime leading 31-30.

Childers played with a purpose in the second half by collecting six of his 18 points in the third quarter. Childers scored the first bucket of the second half to help the Huskies regain a 32-31 lead in the third after two minutes of miscues from the Lakers and Huskies.

"We got some damn good players, and they're fun to coach because they can do some fancy things as well as complicated things that look easy," Crocker said. "I was happy with the energy, intensity and physicality we played with."

After several lead changes, Childers sank two free throws to put the Huskies ahead 36-34. The Lakers never saw a lead again after Childers' free throws because the Huskies countered with points anytime the Lakers scored.

The Lakers tied it up 44-44 midway through the fourth quarter after junior Benji Allen made both free throws to put him at 14 points on the night. The Lakers got a gift from the Huskies by being in the bonus with six minutes to play, but they couldn't capitalize on the opportunity.

Gray created a highlight-reel play in the fourth with a behind-the-back, no-look pass that led to a layup. After Allen made his free throws, Gray got the Huskies ahead with four quick points.

The Lakers did what they could to contain Gray, but his court vision only excelled after a block that left him leading the fastbreak. Gray, with a head of steam, dished a no-look pass to his left side for a bucket to extend the lead 52-44 with under four minutes.

"I practice it all the time at practice," Gray said, smiling when asked about his behind-the-back passes.

Crocker acknowledged how amazed he was to see that get done.

"I love it. He has great court vision, and it's not something he does all the time, but it isn't the first time we've seen it," Crocker said.

The Lakers tried to stay within striking distance as the clock ticked, but the Huskies continued to defend and made the necessary baskets to escape with a win at Glen Lake for the first time since 2015.

Crocker noted that the win gave the players an extra boost of confidence and knowledge that they could play against top teams.

"There's a lot of guys who remember a lot of people saying that this team isn't going to be good or you don't have the right ballplayers. Or have said, 'We've got guys that play too much street ball and not team basketball,'" Crocker said. "I think the team is happy to put some of that stuff to rest."

The Huskies travel to Cadillac on Saturday to play Bay City Western in the Jeff McDonald Memorial Showcase. The Lakers sit in second place in the Northwest as they welcome Buckley on Tuesday before traveling to Frankfort on Thursday.