Vermander's energy sparks Tars victory over Port Huron

Vermander's energy sparks Tars victory over Port Huron

By: Evan Petzold, Macomb Daily


Senior forward Riley Vermander didn't touch the floor in the first half, but he entered late in the game and proved to be the difference maker.

As Port Huron cut its deficit to seven points, Vermander scored five-straight points to put Anchor Bay up by 12 with 4:02 remaining in the game.

Vermander tossed in 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, leading Anchor Bay (5-3) to a 52-37 victory over Port Huron (1-7) in a MAC crossover basketball game on Friday.

"He's a college level athlete," Anchor Bay coach Jim Barnes said of Vermander. "He has a unique blend of size, skill and athleticism. He's been dependable all year.

"He was the difference maker."

Being called on as a leader to step up in the clutch is something Vermander thrives on.

"I like having it all on me," Vermander said. "I think I'm the best guy to do that. We played with a lot more intensity. We were working the ball and getting easy shots."

Without Vermander in the first half, the Tars were paced to a 29-18 halftime lead through the efforts of senior guard Jaylon Smelser. Nine of his 11 points were scored in the first half.

Port Huron sophomore guard Nijere Finney opened the game with back-to-back 3-pointers for a six-point lead just 80 seconds into the contest. Finney tossed in a game-high 16 points.

Anchor Bay ended the first quarter on a 6-0 run, which was capped off with a buzzer-beating layup from junior guard Ethan Ansted, who split two defenders on his way to the basket.

When Ansted dropped in the layup as time expired, the entire Anchor Bay bench erupted in cheers.

More than just earning a win on their home floor, Barnes said the Tars clearly improved their team chemistry. Along with Vermander, the bench was one of the main reasons why Anchor Bay ended up on top.

"We're trying to help the program become healthy and competitive," Barnes said. "We talk all the time about being a great teammate and putting forth effort. If I talked too much about what our bench did, I would tear up. At the end of the first quarter, I said, 'The bench is our best player today.'

"Our bench set the tone for the whole night. We had 13 great teammates, and we haven't had that all year."

Vermander entered the game for the first time with nearly two minutes left in the third quarter. A minute after he checked in, the senior drew a foul and went 2-for-2 at the free throw line to help deliver a 37-30 edge after 24 minutes.

"I knew the team was going to step up and give me good passes," Vermander said. "I just had to take over a little bit to be a leader."

With 4:49 remaining in the game, Finney drove the lane and scored a layup with defenders smothering him, but Anchor Bay guard Chris Belt drew a charge on the attempt to reverse the call.

Once again, the bench went nuts.

Following the courageous defensive stand from Belt, the Tars went on a 12-5 run to end the game in their favor by 15 points.

"Had we lost by 15, I would've been just as proud of our kids," Barnes said. "We hope we are playing our best in the last couple of weeks."

Anchor Bay's next game is on the road against MAC Blue rival L'Anse Creuse on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Big Reds travel to Madison Heights for a MAC Silver clash on Tuesday.