By Ken DeLaat
Newaygo 48 White Cloud 45
It was a classic matchup between two talented teams. One was led by senior sharpshooter Hannah Brown the lethal offensive weapon putting the finishing touches on a fine four year varsity career. The Cloud was playing at home and Brown was a basket away from becoming the school’s all time leading scorer.
Their visitors featured a young group of cagers as junior Sophie Frisbie was joined by three sophomores and a freshman at tip-off time however, two of those sophomores were Varsity veterans Jaylee Long and Lillian Ruehmeier.
It was the annual Hoops for Hope game when players and coaches choose someone they know who has been touched by cancer to honor in a pre game ceremony.
And then the game began.
These two schools have a lengthy tradition of putting on highly competitive and highly entertaining games.
Prior to the varsity game the JV’s warmed the crowd up with a battle to the finish that saw a number of heroics down the stretch. It looked like the Lions might have the game in hand when Haleigh Schmitt dropped in one from the stripe to give the Lions the one pont edge with a time winding down. That was before the ball found the hands of Elizabeth Campeau who launched one from the top of the key and sent it home with 3 seconds left to give White Cloud a 36-34 win.
The came the main event.
The teams measured each other the first couple of minutes before Frisbie shot a pass to Ruehmeier who opened the scoring. Brown quickly answered with a bucket and time was called as her basket inched her ahead of Teresa Harvatich as the all-time leading scorer in White Cloud Girls Basketball.
Ms. Harvavith had held the record since 1982 the same year she hit a crucial bucket and one to send White Cloud to the state finals.
But I digress.
Jaxi Long drew a foul and drained a pair then sister Jaylee found Ruehmeier who scored her second of the evening and it was 6-2 Lions. Fouls brought Hallie Schulz to the line where she split a pair followed by Cassie Watson who knocked both down and it was 6-5. Jaylee Long put the Lions up 3 then the Cloud took the air out of the ball killing time in a semi stall before Brown zipped a pass to Olivia Bowman who banged it home from beyond to knot the game at 8 after one.
After another Ruehmeier basket to start the 2nd Watson and Schulz each split and when Schulz scored off a rebound the Indians had their first lead at 12-10. Jaylee Long scored off a steal for the tie but the hosts chipped away and when Jami Perrin found the net for a triple the Indian lead had climbed to 6.
Newaygo fought back as three straight Lion buckets tied it before Brown who had been held scoreless since her record setting shot early in the first quarter rang home a triple that was answered by an Emmerson Goodin bucket and the teams headed to the locker room with the Cloud clinging to a one point adge.
Brown tripled again to start the second half and stake a 25-21 lead before an 11-2 run led by the Long sisters put the Lions up by 5. Jaylee Long seemed to be everywhere scoring 7 including a three while Jaxi Long stole the ball and scored twice and the quarter ended with the visitors in charge by 7.
The 4th began with Schulz hitting a basket and adding a free throw then once again it was Brown from downtown and the lead was whittled to 2. Each time the Cloud made a run the Lions held them off with a key shot. When Alexis Strait split at the line to make it a 3 point game with a minute remaining the Indians needed to get the ball back. They managed a stop and were able to get off a potential game tying try but the shot didn’t fall and the Lions took home the win.
"This was a typical White Cloud/Newaygo game,” said Lion Coach Nate Thomasma “It was a fast paced and physical. Both teams played a good ball game."
"Extremely proud of my team tonight. They held their composure and made the plays at the right moment.”
Brown hit for a game high 20 points and has now tallied 1,274 in a stellar career. She also collected 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Schulz dropped in 11 points, hauling down 8 boards and Watson took 10 off the glass while adding 5 points.
Jaylee Long was masterful on both ends scoring 16 and dishing out 3 assists while creating opportunities on defense. Sophie Frisbie blanketed Brown much of the first half with her aggressive defensive play and Jaxi Long fired in 15 points and pilfered 5 steals.
Ruehmeier played an outstanding game as she rejected a half dozen Indian shots, canned 8 crucial points and pulled in 5 boards as well.
The Lions (3-1, 1-1) will resume conference play after the holidays hosting Big Rapids on January 4th,
White Cloud (3-2, 1-1) will also return to conference competition on the 4th when they travel to Holton.