Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
SCOTTVILLE – When girls basketball teams from Hart and Mason County Central meet, there are no secrets. They know each other that well.
When the Spartans landed the first punch with a great start in Friday night’s key West Michigan Conference Rivers Division clash, it should have surprised nobody that the Pirates fought their way back.
Similarly, it should have surprised nobody that Hart standouts Addi Hovey and Abby Hicks played crucial roles as their team grinded out a 44-36 victory in the packed Mason County Central gym.
With the win, Hart improves to 12-3 overall and 9-0 in the WMC Rivers. The Pirates hold a two-game lead in the Rivers over second-place MCC (12-4, 7-2) with three divisional games remaining. Holton and North Muskegon are tied for third in the Rivers at 5-4.
Hart won its home matchup against MCC, 42-31, on Jan. 4.
Hart, which made a run to the Division 3 state semifinals at the Breslin Center last season, bumped up to Division 2 this season so there will not be a third encounter with Mason County Central. The Spartans are in Division 3. In last year’s district final at Hart, the Spartans put a scare into the Pirates before the hosts pulled away late for a 43-34 victory.
In the second of two 2023-24 regular-season matchups Friday, MCC raced out to an early 9-0 lead and held a 13-5 advantage after the first quarter. Hart chipped away in the second quarter, as MCC’s lead shrunk to 17-14 by halftime.
Hart’s pressure defense forced Mason County Central turnovers, which in turn fueled the Pirates’ transition game. Hart outscored MCC 15-10 in the third quarter and 15-9 in the fourth.
In addition to playing sticky defense on MCC junior point guard Mallory Miller, Hovey scored 13 of her game-high 16 points in the second half. The 5-foot-11 junior also grabbed five rebounds.
Hicks, a senior combo guard, finished with nine points, five steals, and four assists. She scored eight second-half points.
Hart freshman Rilynn Porter played a strong floor game with nine points, six steals, and five assists. Junior Kelsey Copenhaver had six points and 12 rebounds.
For MCC, Miller and 6-3 senior Wren Nelson led the way with 12 points apiece. Junior Eva Hradel grabbed 10 rebounds for the Spartans, while senior Grace Weinert chipped in four points.
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