Cats pull off improbable road win
NILES — Michael Jackson’s hit song “Thriller” seemed to fit the moment following the Three Rivers Wildcats’ 74-72 non-conference boys’ basketball win Tuesday at Niles.
Brian Burg’s Wildcats celebrated a tension-filled non-conference come-from-behind win over the Vikings, as Jackson’s 1980s hit song was played over the PA system.
The win seemed like an improbable one for Three Rivers, which trailed Niles by as many as 15 points in the third quarter.
A three-pointer by Niles’ Bryce Lake put the Vikings up 52-40 with just under two minutes left in the period.
Three Rivers, however, finished the quarter with an 11-4 run to put itself behind by just five, 56-51, entering the fourth quarter.
The Cats converted on their opening two possessions of the fourth quarter. Ashley Manansala’s steal and layup and Carson Charvat’s three-pointer tied the score at 56-56.
‘That was a critical basket for us, Ashley’s steal and layup. He might’ve been one of our unsung heroes tonight,” Burg said.
Jacob Hamm netted a pair to put Niles back on top 58-56.
But Gavin Charvat’s layup and free throw regained the lead for Three Rivers at 59-58 with 6:50 left in the game.
From that point on, the two teams would change lead seven times and be tied on four other occasions.
During that span, Carson Charvat knocked down a pair of three-pointers. His triple with 4:38 left knotted the score up at 66-66. Sophomore Jalen Heivilin scored off a putback to give the Cats a 68-66 lead.
Niles came storming back with back-to-back layups from Austin Brookins to put the Vikings on top 70-68 with 2:16 remaining.
Carson Charvat’s tipin tied the contest up again at 70-70 with 1:57 left.
Gavin Charvat fed a pass inside on a backdoor cut by senior center Tirrell Haumanis to give the Cats a 72-70 lead with 1:00 to go.
But Brookins sank a mid-range jumper to pull the Vikings even with the Cats at 72-72.
With 0:15 left, Haumanis secured a rebound off the defensive glass and outleted the ball to Gavin Charvat for a layup and a 74-72 Three Rivers lead.
Niles had two shots in the final six seconds on the game, but both attempts missed the mark.
“It was a great win. We were down by 15 at one point in the third quarter. Our guys just kept playing, making stops, rebounding the ball when we needed them too and finished the game,” Burg said.
“I am very proud of how we finished the game and to start the season 1-0.”
Carson Charvat, who finished the night with a game-high 26 points, netted two of his five three-pointers to help stake Three Rivers to an early first-quarter lead of 8-4.
“Carson provided us with some leadership and knocking down some threes for us,” Burg said.
Heivilin, one of two sophomores in the Cats’ starting lineup, scored six of his 17 points on the night to help put his team on top 16-15 at the end of the first quarter.
But Niles heated up from outside and hit five three-pointers of its own, including two each from Lake and Hamm, during the second quarter to seize a 34-25 lead heading into halftime.
Three Rivers found itself behind by double digits for a majority of the third quarter, but eventually cut the lead down to five heading into the fourth quarter thanks to three pointers from Sam Hawkins and Heivilin and key inside buckets from Hausmanis and Carson Charvat. Hawkins also had a critical layup to close out the Cats’ third-period scoring.
The 6-foot-4 Hausmanis finished the night with 11 points.
“Tirrell made a great defensive stop at the end for us. I told him that teams are going to really hone in on him to stop him. We do different things when that happens and the kids responded,” Burg said.
Gavin Charvat and Hawkins each ended the night with nine points apiece for Three Rivers.
“We made some silly mistakes tonight. I thought our sophomores, Jalen and Gavin, really played well and seemed to understand the game when they had to down the stretch. They’re sophomores and are going to make mistakes, but they produced when they had to,” Burg said.
“I thought we did a much better job in the second half adjusting to their 2-2-1 press. Carson went to the middle and we put Tirrell on the block and we started making the easy shots. We missed those in the first half.”
Hausmanis had eight rebounds for Three Rivers. Carson Charvat pulled down seven, Heivilin six. senior Max Chapman, a 6-5 center, came in at a critical moment in the second half with Hausmanis in foul trouble with four, and hauled down a key rebound for the Cats.
Gavin Charvat, Heivilin and Hawkins all had two steals apiece.
Alex Harpenau poured in 23 points for Niles. Lake finished with 12 for the Vikings, Hamm added 11, while Brookins finished with eight and Dawson Clemens had six.
Brookins also had two steals and three assists. Hamm had three assists. Harpenau finished with eight rebounds and a pair of steals.
“Three Rivers was tough inside the lane tonight when they had to be. Our defensive transition in the second half was non-existent. They destroyed us on the boards in the fourth quarter,” said Niles coach Todd Pawielski.
“We can’t fall in love with shooting the three-pointer. We need more out of our postplayers. With the game on the line we just didn’t make the plays we needed to. It's basic stuff we should be able to execute. It’s a very disheartening loss for a group that has seven returners back from a 6-14 team.”
Niles was without the services of senior guard Chris Brown who out the first 10 games for violation of the school’s athletic code of conduct.
Scott Hassinger can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 25 or email@example.com.