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Defense, crowd, poise down stretch help Hart rally past Mason County Central for district title

Pirates capture their fourth district championship in five years.

Photos by Scott DeCamp and Emily DeCamp | CatchMark

HART — Seldom is Hart’s girls basketball team in the predicament it was on its home court during the second half of an intense Division 3 district championship game Friday night.

Mason County Central rallied from an early deficit and, by the third quarter, had wrestled away all of the momentum in building a seven-point lead.

In a tenuous spot, the host Pirates relied on what’s carried them through so many times: Defense, poise in big-game situations and a large, noisy home crowd. Those things, along with big plays in key moments by a couple of role players and a 13-0 fourth-quarter scoring advantage, pushed Hart over the top in a 43-34 victory over Mason County Central.

It’s the fourth district title in five years for the Pirates (21-3), who will not have to travel very far for next week’s regional. They’ll play at Shelby in Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. regional semifinal against Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (17-7), which defeated Wyoming Potter’s House Christian, 41-24, in its district final.

Hart defeated Potter’s House, 44-26, on Feb. 6.

Friday’s win over Mason County Central (19-5) completed a season sweep for Hart. The Pirates finished first in the West Michigan Conference Rivers Division at 12-0, while the Spartans went 10-2 with the lone two divisional losses coming against Hart.

Hart’s two regular-season wins over Mason County Central came by 16 and 19 points, respectively. The Spartans put some serious pressure on the Pirates in Round 3, however.

In this one, Hart raced out to a 12-4 first-quarter lead. The Pirates maintained a 20-16 edge at halftime before the Spartans came storming back in the third. Mason County Central used a 12-2 run in the third and entered the fourth quarter with a 34-30 advantage.

That’s when Hart’s defense turned it up a notch and forced Mason County Central into some miscues, as the Pirates kept the Spartans off the board the rest of the way.

Hart senior Chloe Coker’s 3-pointer with about 3 1/2 minutes left tied the game at 34. Pirates sophomore Kelsey Copenhaver’s bucket near the paint moments later put her team ahead for good, 36-34.

Here are more details and notables from the game:

  • Hart junior Abby Hicks led her team with 13 points, six rebounds and five steals.
  • Hart senior Aspen Boutell battled an injury to finish with 11 points, three steals and two assists.
  • Hart sophomore Addi Hovey posted a double-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
  • Coker added five points and Copenhaver four for Hart. Copenhaver also grabbed three rebounds.
  • Mason County Central junior Wren Nelson also recorded a double-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
  • MCC sophomore Mallory Miller scored nine points.
  • MCC junior Grace Weinert had five points and six assists. Her 3-pointer from the wing with about 2:50 left in the third quarter gave the Spartans a 27-25 lead during their big run.
  • MCC senior Charlie Banks and sophomore Eva Hradel registered eight and five rebounds, respectively.
  • These teams should be seeing a lot more of each other in big-game situations going forward. MCC’s roster featured only three seniors, while Hart will return several key players as well.


See updated 2023 girls district basketball brackets for West Michigan Conference teams

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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