Track-meet hoops: Levi Schultz scores 31, dunks for 10th time in 7 games as Traverse City Christian outruns Ellsworth | Sports

TRAVERSE CITY — Neither Traverse City Christian nor Ellsworth field their own track team.

Both made up for it in Thursday night’s boys basketball game at TC Christian, as the Sabers ran up a 79-61 score in a run-and-shoot affair.

“I hear that a lot, ‘Oh, that was a lot of fun,'” TC Christian head coach Rene LaFreniere said. “And I’m glad people enjoy it. I’m more appreciative of the fact that they come out and support it because there’s a lot of other things they can do. But from my point of view, I’m like, ‘OK, nice shot. Go play some defence.’ That’s how I see it.”

Levi Schultz certainly saw things clearly. The 6-foot-6 Sabers senior exploded for 31 points, including a third-quarter dunk as his team pulled away.

Ellsworth head coach James Willingham said the Lancers like to play fast, but this one was too fast for their first game in just over two weeks.

“We just ran out of gas,” he said. “It was our first game back from break, and we could tell there were some tired legs out there. A little bit of condensed lungs. But lots of credit to Traverse City Christian. They ran well, they got open, they were strong with the ball.”

TC Christian (6-1) led 23-19 after a quarter, turning it around after Ellsworth (4-2) sprinted to an early 10-2 lead. The Sabers’ advantage crept up to 44-35 by halftime before Ellsworth started the second half with a 7-0 run to pull within four.

“It was fun to watch,” Willingham said. “The first quarter is really how we’d like to play. We’d like to be in your face as much as we can, and then go down and hit some shots. As the game went on, we just watched the ball get shorter and shorter and shorter.”

Schultz’s fast-break dunk — his 10th of the season — put the Sabers up 63-47 late in the third for a 16-point lead that was the Sabers’ biggest cushion until closing out the game on a 6-0 run over the last two minutes.

“They had a few good shooters,” Schultz said. “We tried to stop the threes as much as possible and just get to the boards and get in transition. We had height on them and we had athleticism, so if we can exploit those, that’s what we try to do.”

Reece Broderick knocked down seven 3-pointers to score 25 points for the Sabers, with Garrett Schultz and Austin Miller each scoring five.

“We’d get a run and then they would be able to just turn it back around,” Willingham said. “That’s what good teams do.”

Jacob Jenuwine matched Broderick with seven 3-pointers of his own, scoring a team-high 27. Kelan Pletcher scored 15 and Patrick Puroll 11 for the Lancers, drawing a pair of second-half charges on Schultz.

“They’re athletic. They’re quick,” LaFreniere said. “They’ve got that sort of athleticism where they’re in control and they can finish, which is a little more than what we have. We’re athletic, but we struggle on the finish sometimes.”

TC Christian has won four straight after a one-point setback against Onekama (4-1).

“We tend to go on hot streaks and then go on cold streaks a lot, which is not good,” Schultz said. “We just had more cold streaks than hot streaks that night. We should have beat them, but they made more shots.”

The Lancers are tied atop the competitive Northern Lakes Conference, as no NLC squad remains undefeated in league play. The three leaders — Ellsworth, Mackinaw City and Harbor Light — have traded wins, with each taking one loss to one of the others early in a league where every team plays twice. Ellsworth returns to conference play Monday, hosting Alanson.

The independent Sabers travel Tuesday to Grand Traverse Academy before visiting Ski Valley Conference leader Gaylord St. Mary next Thursday.

Both teams’ seasons ended last year at the hand of eventual state semifinalist Lake Leelanau St. Mary. The Sabers and Lancers couldn’t meet again until the regional finals, which would require Ellsworth to make it out of a competitive district, and the Sabers likely needing to beat Lake Leelanau St. Mary in districts.

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