CAREY - On paper, Van Buren was a two-win team coming into Carey to face a Blue Devil squad near the top of the pack in the Midland Athletic League.
On the court, the Black Knights stayed right with Carey most of the night, before the Blue Devils pulled away for a 71-61 non-conference victory.
Carey coach C.J. Kin however, wasn't looking at the records, and just saw a good basketball team coming into town.
"We knew coming in Van Buren was a young team and they've gotten better all year long. We were impressed how they played their last couple games," he said. "I told the kids this wasn't going to be an easy game even though they only got two wins. They're a tough team, and they're getting better every game. They'll be a team we really have to deal with next year."
The game was close, but the excitement got subdued with 1:44 left in the first half. Carey's Brandon Distel fought for an offensive rebound, and then fell to the ground. Play was stopped when Distel couldn't get up.
Distel, who was playing in just his third game of the season after suffering an injury during football season, was taken off on a stretcher.
|Carey 71, Van Buren 61|
|Van Buren (2-11): Tyler Smith 0-0-0; Sawyer Junge 1-0-2; Ryan Adolph 9-1-19; Justin Roberts 6-1-15; Tory Palmer 4-1-11; Daniel Roberts 1-4-7; Zeke Weichart 1-2-4; Josh Roberts 0-0-0; Matt DeVore 1-1-3. Totals: 23-10-61.|
|Carey (8-4): Matthew Holsinger 0-0-0; Jacob Bash 2-0-5; Brandon Distel 0-0-0; Corbin Blair 2-0-4; Bryce Orians 4-10-18; Zack Coppler 8-4-20; Drey Cole 1-2-4; Justin Meek 5-2-14; Jordan Patterson 2-2-6. Totals: 24-20-71.|
|Van Buren||13||21||9||18 – 61|
|Carey||15||20||16||20 – 71|
|Field goals: Van Buren 23-53; Carey 24-50|
|3-point goals: Van Buren 5-13 (Ju. Roberts 2, Palmer 2, D. Roberts); Carey 3-12 (Meek 2, Bash)|
|Foul shots: Van Buren 10-15; Carey 20-25|
|Rebounds: Van Buren 30 (Ju. Roberts 5); Carey 30 (Coppler 6, Meek 6)|
|Turnovers: Van Buren 23; Carey 23|
He was taken to a nearby hospital. As of press time, there was no word on the extent of the injury.
Distel's injury, though, served as inspiration to his team. Carey trailed 31-26 at the time of the injury, but the Blue Devils were determined to win the game for their fallen teammate.
"Everybody was real hurt because we knew how bad he wanted to play. He meant a lot to the team and brought a lot of energy," Zack Coppler said. "After he went down we got together, we talked and we really wanted to just win that game for him."
Carey scored the next seven points once play resumed. Jordan Patterson knocked down two free throws with no time on the clock to send the Blue Devils into the locker room with a 35-34 lead.
"I don't know if our legs are tired after (12) games. We just haven't had that energy the last couple games. I thought after we came out the second half, we played a lot better. Kept the ball out of the middle of the floor. When we kept them out of the middle, we were able to take away their shooters, then we were able to get out and run."
Carey surged ahead with a 16-9 third quarter run. Once again, Coppler said Distel was on everyone's mind.
"For Brandon," he said. "That's all we really wanted to do. We didn't want to lose that one and have to tell him about it."
Coppler, Bryce Orians and Justin Meek picked the team up on both ends of the floor. Coppler led all scorers with 20 points. Orians scored 18, including going 8 of 9 from the foul line in the fourth quarter to ice the game. Meek finished with 14.
"Me, Justin and Bryce, we all really just had to step it up," Coppler said. "After we got ahead a little bit, they came back and we did what we had to do. Everybody did a real nice job of stepping up."
Carey held a 51-43 edge heading into the fourth quarter, but Van Buren scored the period's first six to trim the lead to two.
Carey responded with Orians picking up a steal and dishing off to Coppler for an easy basket. Coppler returned the favor on the next possession, coming up with a steal and sending an outlet pass to a fast-breaking Orians.
"With Bryce on the bench with foul trouble, it really hurts what we can do on the offensive end," Kin said. "With Bryce back out there we spread the floor, made good passes inside to Zack. Once we spread them out, made them run around, we were able to get easy looks and able to extend the lead."
"I was proud of the guys for how they played on defense," Van Buren coach Marc Bishop said. "I thought our intensity was very good. ... We were a little bit fatigued there towards the end of the game and I think that was the difference.
"I think the effort was there; we can't fault the guys for that. They just ran out of gas here at the end of the game."