STORY AND PHOTO GALLERY BY CHRIS BROOKS, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com
CUBA — A massive turnaround season for the Rebels of Cuba-Rushford has now entered the second portion of the year. The time of the season where it now matters more than anything — Sectionals.
The hope now for Cuba-Rushford was to make all the noise possible to keep what was a 16-4 season going at all costs.
But on Tuesday, they were presented with a challenge in the form of No. 12 Caledonia-Mumford — an opponent that pushed the Rebels to their limit during the night’s early-going.
But at the same time, it was also a challenge that Braeden Wight accepted by igniting his cause from outside, as he launched three first half three-pointers to pair alongside another hot performance from Jacob Smith, helping maintain distance on the Raiders throughout the first half by allowing them to continue building onto their lead in the third quarter, en route to a 70-57 win in the opening round of Class C3 action on Tuesday.
“I thought Cal-Mum came ready to play, so credit to them. We turned the ball over a little bit in the third, which allowed them to jump back in it, but we managed to step up and make some winning plays,” said Rebels coach Pat Wight. “I’m very pleased with Braeden and how well he shot, and his defensive effort on (Jeremy) Raymond. He’s one of their best shooters, and he held him to three points. Luke (Brooks) gave us a solid inside presence, as well as Peyton (Joy). Jacob did his thing as well, along with Jack (Frank). You can’t ask for much more than that.”
The Rebels (17-4) were able to find an edge after the Raiders grabbed an early lead with the game’s first four points, as Wight found his stroke from downtown with back-to-back three-pointers to pull them ahead with a lead of their own.
In the midst of an even exchange of baskets, Cuba-Rushford saw Jack Frank get onto the board himself with their third straight trey, helping branch the lead out to five.
But Cal-Mum was able to erase an early deficit, climbing out of the hole with five unanswered points themselves to tie the game at 11 with under two minutes left. The quarter would wrap up with a buzzer-beating basket from the Raiders to close the gap down to one.
In the second quarter however, the hosts in white were able to create enough steam off the hop to fire up the engine, scoring seven of the first nine points — a span that saw another triple and a three-point conversion from Jacob Smith at the charity stripe come to fruition.
The momentum would remain with the Rebels, especially after a pair of blocks at the breadbasket by Peyton Joy helped the cause. As a result, the Rebels would push their lead out to double digits to close out the half — a point where they would never look back, as their lead grew exponentially to as large as 20 during the third quarter, allowing them to pull away permanently towards a Quarterfinals berth this weekend, thanks to a pair of 19-9 runs of the Raiders to close up shop.
Smith led all scorers for Cuba-Rushford, as he was one of four shooters to eclipse double figures on offense with his team-high 16 points. Wight followed behind with 14 points of his own, while Luke Brooks had 13 points. Jack Frank was the last Rebel to eclipse the plateau, finishing with 10 points on the nose.
On special teams, Joy turned in a dominant performance underneath with six rebounds and five blocks.
The Rebels now advance into Friday’s Class C3 Quarterfinal round, where they will take the rest of their Sectional journey over the road with them until the very end, as they now pay a visit to the fourth-seeded Warsaw Tigers where a potential meeting with top-seeded Lyons awaits in the wings, in the Semifinals next week.
“They’re good. It’ll be a fight for sure. Teams don’t just win 15 games in a season by accident. We will get two good practices in and go put our best effort out there.” said Wight.
Caledonia-Mumford 15 9 9 24 – 57
Cuba-Rushford 16 19 19 16 – 70
CAL-MUM: Donny Peet 4 1-1 10, Jeremiah Anderson 1 1-3 3, Ryan Mills 1 0-0 3, Braeden Fonte 5 0-0 10, Nate Doll 11 2-4 24, Jeremy Raymond 1 0-0 3, Oliver Johnson 2 0-0 4. Totals: 25 4-8 57.
CUBA-RUSHFORD: Braeden Wight 4 2-2 14, Jacob Smith 6 2-3 16, Kaden Bell 0 1-4 1, Luke Brooks 5 3-4 13, Jack Frank 3 3-6 10, Hunter Scott 1 0-0 2, Finn Ricketts 2 0-0 4, Tristan Clayson 0 2-2 2, Peyton Joy 4 0-0 8. Totals: 25 13-21 70. 3-point goals: C-M 3 (Peet, Mills, Raymond), C-R 7 (Wight 4, Smith 2, Frank).
Total Fouls: C-M 16, C-R 12. Fouled out: Mills (C-M).