Thursday’s highly anticipated battle between unbeaten teams atop the West Michigan Conference (WMC) Rivers Division didn’t provide much drama as Hart repeatedly drove the lane for a convincing 54-38 victory over Mason County Central (MCC) in Scottville.

Both the Pirates and Spartans boasted undefeated conference records entering the game, but it was MCC that had yet to lose overall. Hart on the other hand was fresh off two consecutive out-of-conference losses to talented rosters from Kent City and Holland Christian.

Hart was effective using their guards to penetrate the Spartans’ defense down low. Abby Hicks (15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) and Aspen Boutell (19 points, 2 assists) led the way offensively, powering their squad to a 30-20 halftime lead on the back of 11 combined points in the second quarter alone.

“That’s our mentality. That’s been our mentality for three or four years now,” said Hart coach Travis Rosema of his team’s attack-the-basket outlook. “I have tremendous athletes, starting with my seniors. Mariana (VanAgtmael), Chloe (Coker), Aspen (Boutell), just a lot of girls… I have tremendous athletes. For me, it’s my five athletes, stop us.

“I think if we can make teams play us man-to-man and make us dribble-drive, and if we can hit 3s like Aspen did early, I think it really opens up the driving lanes. Fortunately, we did that tonight.”

The Pirates’ sophomore star Addi Hovey (8 points, 6 rebounds) was relatively quiet offensively, though she did make an impact on defense with a team-high 5 steals.

“That was huge,” Spartans’ head coach Mike Weinert said of the Pirates’ ability to drive to the basket. “I talked about it before the game. I talked about it in a timeout. And we talked about it at halftime. We did figure it out after half.

“There’s a certain way to play them because they’re quick and they can shoot from the outside. When they do go to the hole, they use their body and extend their arm really well.”

The Pirates’ lead only grew in the second half. Outside shots were hitting for the Pirates and they continued to attack the basket. Chloe Coker and Makayla Rockwell each knocked down 3-pointers as the Pirates had a seven-point scoring edge in the third quarter.

“I think we focused a little bit more on taking advantage of a mismatch with a couple of players and working into the post,” Rosema said. “If they’re not going to come out, I have girls that get into the gym and can shoot. I had a couple of girls hit a couple of big threes that really helped.”

The victory gave Hart its ninth in a row between the two schools and also lifted them to their 18th straight conference win.

“I feel like we didn’t make shots, (and) they did, and we turned it over. They got on the boards a little bit better,” Weinert said. “Those are things we can do better, and we’re going to get better at, but they’re going to get better at some stuff, too.

“I think we will be able to battle them better in the future, but it’s going to be tough. They’re a quality team and they’re very well coached.”

With the win, Hart advances to a 5-2 overall record, but remains unbeaten at 4-0 within the WMC Rivers Division. MCC (6-1 overall, 3-1 WMC Rivers) will look to keep the defeat from Hart the only one on their ledger in preparation of a rematch between the two on Feb. 10 inside the Pirates’ home gym.