By Ken DeLaat
Photos By Alexis Mercer
In the 7 weeks since the beginning of the boys basketball season Newaygo had gone undefeated on their home court.
In both games.
A grinding first half schedule saw the Lions begin their season at one the area’s toughest venues in Reed City then playing 7 of their next 9 on the road. Tough back to back losses to the conference co-leaders included a dramatic double overtime affair in Fremont. A week later the team fell short against their rivals from the south as the team weathered another key conference defeat Earlier this week playing away from their gym once again, the Lions lost a cross conference game to Morley Stanwood. A game when their effort was questioned. It was a low point midway through the season but with the corner turned and a feast of home cooking on the horizon the Lions let it be known that they fully intend to hold home court down the stretch.
Newaygo faced down a good Reed City team. The Coyotes can dominate the glass and with scoring machine Karsten Koopman utilizing his patented spin move in the paint they’ve been known to run away from teams early.
But not tonight. Not in Lion country where a raucous student section led an energetic home crowd in backing their team as the hosts simply took the game away from their foes.
When RC took an early lead behind a pair of easy inside buckets by Anthony Pelton it looked like it might be an uphill climb but Morgan Manlick got to the line and sank a pair to put Newaygo on the board then Mitch Karrip laced a triple giving the Lions the lead. Zac Saez answered with a 3 pointer and the Coyote were in front again but Connor Swinehart quickly responded from beyond the arc for the lead that Newaygo would hold for the remainder of the contest.
Reed City made countless runs at the Lions pulling within a bucket five different times but this was Newaygo’s game to win and you could see it in the way the team took to the court. In the paint they gave up height but not heart battling to secure boards and fighting to keep the dangerous Koopman contained.
In the second half Koopman came out of intermission to trim the 7 point edge to 2 as he scored the first 11 Coyote points but Richard Hearth twice capitalized on scoring opportunities then exchanged a pair of assists for scores with Swinehart before drilling a last second three from the corner to give the Lions an 8 point lead heading to the final period.
Between Karrip’s shooting for the floor and Manlicks cool conversions from the line the Lions kept the Coyotes at bay in the fourth and came away with a big win to keep their home record unblemished.
An obviously pleased Coach Joe Barrette was asked about the turnaround from their lackluster loss to the Mohawks earlier this week.
“After Tuesday this group of young men decided to dig in and not go back to that place ever again. Tonight was a great effort and now we can look forward to playing in front of our home crowd for another 8 games.”
Swinehart finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Karrip totaled 15 points on the night and Hearth hit for an even dozen to go with his 7 boards.
And the defense for the Lions?
The defense never rested.