BENTON HARBOR — Benton Harbor’s boys basketball team made a big third-quarter run and then hung on to beat Kalamazoo Central 68-62 in Friday’s Paul Wilhite Classic.

Carlos “Scooby” Johnson had 23 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Tigers, who were playing their former Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference rival for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

“The fans have been asking for this for the last four years,” Benton Harbor coach Corey Sterling said. “We finally were able to make it happen. It was a tournament atmosphere and I think both teams got better tonight. It was great.

“They came out and made their run, and then we made a big run. Then at the end, we’ve just got to finish the game better.”

Dowagiac fell to Grand Rapids Union 75-31 in the opening game.

Benton Harbor (3-0) scored the final 14 points of the third quarter to build a 48-32 lead. Kalamazoo Central (2-1) rallied behind Mohamed Kamara, who scored all 12 of his points in the fourth. He also had a game-high 14 rebounds.

“(Kamara) had a pretty rought start,” Kalamazoo Central coach Ramsey Nichols said. “I knew at some point he would heat up. He’s a warrior, he’s one of our senior leaders.

“I’m proud of my guys, the effort coming into a rowdy environment, a tournament-type environment, and I like the way we stepped up to the challenge.”

The Maroon Giants got as close as 61-59 when Dayvion Smith hit a 3-pointer and was fouled with 1:21 left. He missed the resulting free throw, however, and William Suggs grabbed the rebound.

Suggs was fouled and converted both free throws to extend the lead to four. He finished with 15 points, including a 9-for-10 performance from the free-throw line. Quindarius Davis added 13 points for Benton Harbor, all in the second half.

“We really don’t know who’s going to be that second-leading scorer,” Sterling said. “It can anybody any given night. I trust the rest of the guys.”

Kalamazoo Central had a 20-13 lead early in the second quarter. Trevon Gunter scored 11 points in that stretch and finished with a team-high 21.

Johnson then took over for Benton Harbor, scoring 11 points during a 17-5 run to close the half.

“He had an awesome stretch,” Sterling said. “He got us going. That’s what Scooby does. He’s been doing it for four years — put the team on his back and lead us when we were struggling for a minute.”

The Tigers continued to build their lead in the third quarter, outscoring the Maroon Giants 18-7.

“We just had that bad stretch when we turned it over, and we didn’t shoot well from the free-throw line,” Nichols said. “We built ourselves more so than anything.”

In the opener, Dowagiac (2-3) trailed just 12-6 after one quarter, but Grand Rapids Union (3-0) dominated the rest of the way.

“They were very athletic and very quick,” Dowagiac coach Danum Hunt said. “I think we pretty much could’ve matched up with them athletically, we just didn’t show up to play tonight. We came out charged up, a lot of energy last night (a 67-28 victory over Sturgis), did great things, and then we just turned around tonight and we let down. There was no energy, no intensity.”

D.J. Lanier led the Chieftains with 10 points. Jeremiah Pittman and Ray’Vaughn Anderson had 20 points apiece to lead the Red Hawks.

The event honoring Wilhite was held for the third straight year. Sterling, Nichols and Hunt all played for the long-time Benton Harbor basketball coach, who spoke between the two games.

“Coach Wilhite coached all of us,” Sterling said. “You always want to pay homage and give people their flowers while they’re alive.”

Benton Harbor 68, Kalamazoo Central 62

KAL. CENTRAL (62)

Jayvion Henry 1 0-0 2, Scott Hughes 4 3-6 11, Gerald Crawford 3 0-0 6, Trevon Gunter 6 6-8 21, Justin Davis 1 0-2 2, Mohamed Kamara 4 2-3 12, Dayvion Smith 3 0-1 8. Totals: 22 11-20 62.

BENTON HARBOR (68)

Kentrell Pullian 3 0-0 7, Quindarius Davis 3 7-8 13, William Suggs 3 9-10 15, Trucel Singleton 1 0-0 3, Carlos Johnson 8 5-12 23, Joseph Johnson 2 1-2 5, Greg Cooper 1 0-0 2. Totals: 21 22-32 68.

Kal. Central 13 12 7 30 — 62

B. Harbor 11 19 18 20 — 68

3-point goals — Kal. Central 7 (Gunter 3, Kamara 2, Smith 2), Benton Harbor 4 (C. Johnson 2, Pullian, Singleton). Total fouls — Kal. Central 20, Benton Harbor 19. Fouled out — Crawford (KC). Technical fouls — none. Rebounds — Kal. Central 42 (Kamara 14), Benton Harbor 34 (C. Johnson 12).

Records — Benton Harbor 3-0, Kal. Central 2-1.

Grand Rapids Union 75, Dowagiac 31

DOWAGIAC (31)

Trae Brookins 1 0-0 2, Dashawn Brooks 0 3-4 3, De’Ondray Henry 1 0-0 2, D.J. Lanier 4 2-2 10, Cailyn Murphy 4 1-2 9, Stewart Smith 2 0-0 5. Totals: 12 6-8 31.

GR UNION (75)

Danyel Bibbs 5 0-0 10, Jeremiah Pittman 9 1-1 20, Jamarion Pittman 0 2-2 2, CJ Reaves 4 1-2 12, Tyreek Henriques 1 0-0 2, Damarieon Milton 2 0-0 4, Ray’Vaughn Anderson 9 1-1 20, Donnell Walker 0 1-2 1, DaQuin Freeman 2 0-0 4. Totals: 32 6-8 75.

Dowagiac 6 7 10 8 — 31

GR Union 12 18 23 22 — 75

3-point goals — Dowagiac 1 (Smith), GR Union 5 (Reaves 3, Je. Pittman, Anderson). Total fouls — Dowagiac 10, GR Union 13. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none.

Records — Dowagiac 2-3, GR Union 3-0.

Contact: bsanders@TheHP.com, 429-1294, @HPBenSanders