Girls take to the court Monday to begin District play.
By Ken DeLaat
The Second Season is upon us and District action begins for area schools Monday evening.
This is the old one and done season where hundreds of schools play until they los and the four who don’t are the state champs.
The last team from these parts to reach that pinnacle? The 1985 Newaygo Lions won their second title in a row repeating their 1984 success and in 1982 White Cloud got to the finals and fell to Carrollton.
Two teams not in our local B Districts? Central Montcalm who is one of two undefeated teams in Class B and Big rapids who have lost twice…. both the the Hornets. The Cardinals will face Alma from the rugged Tri Valley league and should they win they will face….
The other undefeated team in B? The Kingsley Stags who possess an offensive juggernaut averaging over 70 points a game and will likely be a regional opponent for whoever comes out of the Big Rapids District
The regionals for our local B teams will be played in Grant involving District Champs from Fremont, Comstock Park, Godwin Heights and Orchard View.
The regular season began in late November and teams have grinded through a lengthy season.
But nobody’s tired because now is when the fun really starts.
Fremont is hosting the Districts and will open the tourney at 6pm when they face Belding.
The Black Knights have won but a single game all season, average 30 points per outing and have scored over 40 just 3 times, losing two of those.
When Packer Coach John Krim thinks about what might have been he is likely reflecting on the injuries to Bre Harris and Brianna Noordyk that altered the direction of the team and forced others to step up. When Harris went down during the loss at Reed City the Packers won their next game againsts a still winless and totally overmatched OV squad then dropped 2 in a row to the league leaders by not producing any offense. After those 2 games the offense readjusted and ran off a pair of wins.the second with the help of the newly eligible Noordyk sisters Brianna and Sydney.. In just her second game Brianna Noordyk went down in a tough loss to Tri County and the team promptly lost their next two before once again righting the ship on offense and winning a pair.They lost both games to Big Rapids and Central Montcalm but so did everyone else and neither team is are in this district.
The win at home against a strong Reed City team was a signature moment, a dramatic one point win that knocked the Coyotes out of title contention.
Riley Sweet and fellow senior Anna Patenge have done well in providing some veteran leadership on the floor. Both can score, Sweet is a skilled ball handler and Patenge can school opponents with her moves underneath, however it has been the emergence of a quintet of newer players who are stirring the drink.
Calla Miller is a gamer. She is focused, makes few mistakes and plays with a level of confidence not often seen in freshmen.
Chloe Shriver is full bore high energy all the time. She is a demon on defense loves to run and possesses a nice passing touch.
Paige VandenBerg has become a force inside with her deceptive quickness and the ability to match up defensively with anyone she gets assigned to.
Natalie Jamieson does so many things away from the ball, can score when needed and has a strong defensive presence.
Sydney Noordyk can flat out play the game. She is deadly accurate with her passes and has superior court vision finding the slimmest of openings and delivering the ball to teammates. And you can’t let her alone because she can score in the paint or beyond the arc.
And now they have Bre Harris back. She is still shaking off the rust but if she gets her sweet shot back and continues to turn steals into layups Fremont will be tough to take down.
The Packers are 9-1 when they score more than 40 and they are facing a Belding team that gives up points by the truckload. But for a major upset the Packers should be moving on to face Sparta on Wednesday.
The second game Monday will pit Tri County against Newaygo beginning at 7:30pm.
The Vikings have hit their stride. They have perhaps the best balanced scoring attack to be found and it seems a different player leads the team in points each game.
Grace Miller has an uncanny ability to get loose and when left alone can punish defenses with a sweet shot from distance or a put back off a rugged rebound, Tricia Slavens and Summer Longstreet can score and are key elements of a tough Viking defense and Emma Overbeek can break the back of opponents with clutch 3 point shooting. Emma Thompson has a lot of paint presence and Taylor Reed and Dayoni Mahlich and the others throw out an arsenal of offensive firepower.
They’ve lost just twice in the last month and a half to Central Montcalm and Big Rapids and like we said, so has everyone else and they’re not in this district. The Vikes are averaging over 50 points a game when they win and after a 3-6 start they have finished by winning 9 of 11.
Newaygo rebounded from an 8 game losing streak to win 3 in a row only to experience a 5 game skid to close the season.
Daisy Hagen and Alexis Brocker have no fear on the court. They play with a reckless abandon and can bang it inside with the best of them. Madi Bush gets some of the toughest assignments on defense and generally holds her own with an ability to put points when needed and Sophia Frisbie has come into her own as a ballhandler this season.
Then there are the two freshmen on the squad. Lillian Ruehmeier has progressed dramatically this season and her confidence level seems to be rising. She has good skills that will translate into continued improvement.
Jaylee Long is the real deal. Defenses key on her immediately these days which has stifled her scoring a bit but once loose she will burn the nets repeatedly and make you pay for attempting to go one on one with her. She can pass, rebound, defend, shoot and inspire with her work ethic.
The Vikings have bested the Lions twice but both times they knew they were in a ballgame right to the closing minute. Their multidimensional offense will prove tough for the Newaygo squad who will need to get good minutes off their bench from Dana duChemin, Mya Berwald et.al. to keep pace.
They will also need to score.
Though having periodic offensive woes the Lions scored over 45 8 times and they will need all those and more perhaps to beat TC.If Long and Ruehmeier get hot and the trio of Bush, Hagen and Brocker seal off the Viking inside game and score when Long gets double and triple teamed it could be the Lions moving on to meet Grant Wednesday.
But the Vikes are playing with a lot of confidence and have learned how to win. Newaygo needs to not let them get away early because they will squeeze a lead into a rout rather quickly.
White Cloud is traveling north Monday for a 7pm matchup with Hart at Mason County Central in Scottville.
The Indians closed out the season with 5 straight wins and 11 of their last 13. Hannah Brown is well past the 1000 point mark she eclipsed a few games ago and with Alexis Strait developing such a strong offensive game teams can no longer focus so much on Brown.. Elexis Plotts has been a stalwart in the paint and Hallie Schultz has a nose for the ball. Layna Yeiter has amped up her game and Olivia Bowman and Haley Foster round out a team that bears little resemblance to the one that started the season.
The Pirates had lost 9 of 10 before finishing with a pair of wins including a 71 point effort against Mason County Eastern. Early in the year the Indians handed Hart a 15 point loss and should be the favorites here but watch out for Pirate standouts Yasmin Colon and Allison Tiles. Colon in particular can score in bunches.
A win puts the Indians in a Wednesday game against Hesperia a team they have beaten twice