Poling, Monette, Fowler team with Venema & Taylor; Fialek, Mosley & Cox are HM
Boys All Conference Silver
# Name Grade School
1.Ryland Nelson 12 Morley Stanwood
2 Kyler Larson 10 Kent City
3 Wyatt Monette 11 Holton
5 Austin Fowler 11 Holton
10 Aidan Poling 12 Holton
24 Kain Magnuson 12 Lakeview
30 Sam Venema 12 White Cloud
33 Riley Taylor 12 Hesperia
40 Carter Veldkamp 12 Morley Stanwood
# Name Grade School
2 Brodrick Fialek 10 Holton
11 Casen Armstrong 12 Kent City
11 Maddox Mosley 11 Hesperia
13 Dexter Cox 12 White Cloud
14 Justen Cranney 12 Morley Stanwood
15 Lucas Simon 12 Lakeview
Zerfas, Mortensen, Schuitema & Braiden McDonald on First Team; Jordan McDonald, Stephens & Evans gain HM
Boys Gold All Conference
# Name Grade School
00 Daryle Greenbay 12 Big Rapids
0 Trey Chapin 12 Central Montcalm
0 Gage Todd 11 Chippewa Hills
2 Dawson Dunn 10 Big Rapids
3 Braiden Mcdonald 12 Fremont
3 Payton Hansen 12 Reed City
5 DJ Lee 11 Big Rapids
10 Joshua Zerfas 12 Fremont
11 Wyatt Mortensen 12 Newaygo
22 Cam Friend 12 Tri-County
23 Seth Schuitema 11 Grant
# Name Grade School
1 Seth Jackson 10 Reed City
2 Cole Olson 12 Central Montcalm
4 Orion Evans 12 Grant
4 Ashton Stephens 12 Newaygo
21 Alex Ehnis 12 Chippewa Hills
24 Jamal Strickland 11 Big Rapids
24 Jordon McDonald 10 Fremont
33 Ty Merlington 10 Tri-County
Bayle (Hesp), Strait (WC), Bosset (Hol) named to 1st team; Watson Robins and Tinkham get HM
6 seniors found themselves on the Silver all conference team joined by a pair of juniors and a talented freshman form Kent City (Maddie Geers). The HM squad also included a freshman with Red Devil Ryann Robins gaining the honors
OK Silver Girls First Team
# Name Grade School
4 Jenna Harrison 12 Kent City
5 Emily Bayle 12 Hesperia
5 Madison Hart 11 Lakeview
12 Madison Bosset 12 Holton
22 Madison Garbow 11 Morley Stanwood
23 Kenzie Bowers 12 Kent City
24 Maddie Geers 9 Kent City
32 Alexis Strait 12 White Cloud
34 Brooke Brauher 12 Morley Stanwood
Honorable Mention All-Conference
# Name Grade School
4 Jaidyn Hill 11 Lakeview
14 Braelyn Berry 11 Morley Stanwood
23 Cassie Watson 12 White Cloud
35 Ryann Robins 9 Holton
41 Emma Geers 11 Kent City
45 Emmi Tinkham 11 Hesperia
Calla Miller (L) and Jaylee Long (R) have collected post season honors 4 times in 4 years.
Miller, Arends, Goodin, Jaylee & Jaxi Long on first team; Fisk, Zerlaut, Rider named HM
The basketball future for the CSAA Gold looks to be in good hands as 6 of 11 First Team players and 7 of 8 Honorable Mention members will be back on the courts next year.
CSAA Gold All Conference-Girls
# Name Grade School
3 Sara Arends 11 Grant
10 Calla Miller 12 Fremont
11 Ashley Bialek 12 Tri-County
13 Jaxi Long 11 Newaygo
13 Rylie Haist 10 Big Rapids
14 Emmerson Goodin 11 Newaygo
20 Bailey Vissman 12 Central Montcalm
23 London Eldridge 12 Central Montcalm
32 Madison Wrisley 11 Chippewa Hills
33 Jaylee Long 12 Newaygo
24 Christina Malackanich 10 Reed City
# Name Grade School
1 Kendra Ray 11 Chippewa Hills
10 Courtney Guelzo 11 Central Montcalm
11 Kayla Fisk 11 Newaygo
11 Paige Lofquist 11 Reed City
12 Jaycee Rider 11 Grant
15 Kelsie Gorczewicz 10 Big Rapids
21 Mackenzie Nagelhout 12 Tri-County
35 Haley Zerlaut 11 Fremont
Sportswriter’s attempts at impartiality takes a season long respite
By Ken De Laat
“They remind me of the 'Hoosiers' team,”- Country Day Coach Jerica Williams after Newaygo defeated her Yellowjackets
I would have to agree with Coach Williams on her assessment.
And with ‘Hoosiers' sitting atop my all time sports movie list I guess this is kind of a love letter.
As one who has covered sports for many more years than any players on the current Lion team have been alive, my approach to the games I’ve been privileged to watch has not always been as detached and objective it might be for a sports journalist.
I’ve admittedly had a few favorite players over the many hoop seasons spent either sitting under a basket or (much more comfortably these days) at a press table. Some teams snared my interest more than others. Not always because of their success on the court but for the personalities of their players, their relationship to their coach and how they approached the game.
But none have captivated me like this Lion team that just completed their elongated season.
I wasn’t alone of course. As we said in our article on the final game the community enthusiasm for these girls was as impressive as it was expansive.
Of course being a fan or family member and displaying overt partisanship for your team from the stands is one thing.
Leaping to your feet and cheering a key basket, block, or rebound from the press table is quite another. As is expressing your displeasure to the striped shirt guys at a questionable call, one would imagine.
And yet, guilty as charged.
And while not historically a superstitious type, attending the games with N3 Editor (and apparent believer in supernatural forces) Alexis Mercer, caused me to fall into several pregame rituals as the tourney progressed, rituals I remain convinced helped spur the winning streak.
Long before the current year, this team held my interest. I recall Jaylee Long and Lily Ruehmeier arriving as freshmen and finding their way on a team of upperclassmen. The welcome addition of Jaxi Long and Emmerson Goodin to the starting lineup. Kayla Fisk coming up from the JV’s last season and making an immediate impact on defense The emergence of Anna Brummel this season as a primary offensive weapon The reliability and flexibility Lily Swinehart and Grace Painter provided in their first year while promising more to come in expanded roles for next year's team.
A fun group to watch but also a squad that made you feel as though they were your team. Likeable, generous, classy, selfless and possessing integrity on the court and off. A team one finds it easy to relate to and cheer for.
Three from this group will graduate. Others will replace them and, as it happens to teams in transition, there will be a different feel to next season’s version. A lot of talent remains and they will continue to be fun to watch as Coach Thomasma’s teams always are.
But I gotta tell you when it comes to chemistry with a crowd (as well as with certain aging reporters) this season’s version would be hard to top.
And while other teams may provide excitement and success and entertainment on the hardcourts in the coming years...
This one will be hard to forget.
Well done Lions
Well done indeed.
"Five players on the floor functioning as one single unit. Team, team, team. Alright?"- Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) in ‘Hoosiers’
#2 in the State, #1 In Our Hearts
Story by Ken De Laat
Photos by Alexis Mercer
Portland 52 Newaygo 32
One of the most compelling recent stories to hit our area came to an end Friday evening.
Not the ending the team and their fans might have wanted as the Lions came up short in the finals against a red hot Portland squad that made few mistakes and seemingly couldn’t miss a shot. They defended like demons and when the early shots by Newaygo couldn’t seem to find the nets they pulled ahead and pulled away. Down 17 points in the third the team rallied behind a pair of triples by Anna Brummel and buckets by Jaxi and Jaylee Long but the Raiders came back with some timely shots to keep the Lions at a distance and secure the win.
Close to 180 teams play in D2 and Newaygo was one of the last two standing. Not bad for a team generally ignored by the pollsters all season long. A team that methodically knocked out all who stood in their way of getting to this one.
And in the process they charmed and captivated a community with their never-say-die style and superb team play.
From Sparta to Fremont to Vicksburg (really, MHSAA?) and finally East Lansing this team had an entourage limited only by the restrictions of ticket sales. The Lion Loyal cheered them on, often praising the players by name because by the end of this magical season this team established a solid bond with not just themselves but with a community who adored them.
The young women who wore the black and white this season were absolute warriors and their work ethic and wizardry on the court left an impression on anyone who watched them play.
When Coach Thomasma and the three seniors took to the podium in a post game presser those 3 young women likely wished they could be anywhere else at that moment than in front of cameras and microphones.
And yet they sat there fighting back tears and ready to answer any queries tossed at them about the game. Jaylee Long was cornered after her time at the podium by a couple of media folks and she calmly and politely answered their questions when it took all she had to hide her obvious disappointment.
This team, these players, are indeed a class act.
As is their coach Nate Thomasma who has been instrumental in forging this talent into a championship team.
And above all we hope they remember what champions they have been. A loss at the state finals is nothing to be ashamed about because like we said 170 some D2 teams watched this game at home. Multiply that by 4 divisions and well over 600 teams in the state played and lost their last game before the Lions finished runner up.
These Lions put a lot of hardware in the trophy case this season with a conference title, a District title, and a Regional title.
Like I said, champions.
We caught up with Coach T. to ask about the team and in particular, his seniors who led this team to the three titles and a state final.
Anna Brummel- She's a type of player as the years go on, you just don't see as much. And what I mean with that is she came in as a junior and got very little minutes last year behind the Longs and Frisbee. NEVER COMPLAINED ONE TIME. She worked hard in practice everyday and worked hard all summer and it obviously paid off. I think she hit the biggest shot of the year (against WC) to tie it up. Seems like it's harder to get kids to do that in this day in age. She also would've easily started on 95% of the teams we played this year. We don't make the State Finals without her.
Lily Ruehmeier- She is a very caring person. Always the first person to pick someone up if they are down or if they made a mistake. Got Team Mom qualities. Organized our food order when we went to Culvers on the way home last night. Another TEAM FIRST kid. Played varsity as a freshman. Was our 3rd leading scorer. As she got older, she embraced the role of the "glue girl". Always in the right place at the right time. Does a lot of stuff that doesn't show up in the stat book. Coach Barrette says she has the best 8-12 ft jump shot that he has ever seen!
Jaylee Long- I thought your quote said it best*. If I am playing a pick up game and I get first pick, that is who I am picking. The girl is a warrior. From the black eye at Grant to the busted up nose vs. Country Day, she wasn't coming out. If I ever get the chance to coach someone that is as good as a leader as her again, I will be VERY fortunate. In the four years I coached her, she never once had a bad practice. NOT ONE. Unbelievable kid. She is going to continue making a name for herself at Cornerstone, I promise you that.
“The last couple of weeks went fast! It was a fun ride. I tried at times to sit and soak it in. It really just shows what people/groups can accomplish when they work hard and care about EACH OTHER more than they do themselves. This team was that way. We have good players but they don't have egos. I honestly felt more sad about the fact that I won't get a chance to be around this group again at practice or the bus than I was that we lost last night. Just a special group.
“We'll take some time off to recharge. Dan and I are looking forward to the challenge next year. We got some pieces coming back and it'll be exciting to mold the next group.”
By Ken De Laat
And not only are our Lions playing at the Breslin for the D2 title we have our neighbor to the south Kent City going for it all in D3 and Fowler, the alma mater of not only Newaygo Superintendent Peg Mathis but also my Lifetime Spousal Companion Lil, is competing for the D4 crown.
But back to our Lions.
Newaygo arrived here courtesy of a 6 game run through the tourney facing down some of the best teams in the state.
Their win over Country Day, a school with a long and storied history of capturing state titles, was typical of how the Lions win.
Here’s what Country Day Coach Jerica Williams said after they snapped her team’s 9 game win streak and halted their own march to Breslin.
“They remind me of the 'Hoosiers' team, where, like, they’ll sneak up on you. They’re not very big, but they are super-efficient. They don’t take a lot of bad shots. They play together. I don’t think they out-rebounded us, but it felt like they did. And that makes them so tough.
”And they took us out of what we wanted to do.”
The Lions were masterful Wednesday. They never let up for a single second of play and absolutely hounded the Jackets all afternoon.
And now for the final chapter in what has been a dream season for Newaygo. An undefeated conference schedule and the title as a go with. The District trophy, the two wins over ranked and undefeated teams to snare a Regional crown and now the victories in the Quarters and Semis.
And here is the last piece of that dream...
The Raiders slapped the only loss on the Lion record this season and what better place to avenge that 38-31 defeat than a win in the state finals?
But once again, it won’t come easy. Guilford and Bower give the Raiders a lot of firepower and their pressure defense is formidable.
And they, unlike the other teams that have taken the floor against Newaygo, have beaten the Lions.
But it is awful tough to beat a good team twice in a season.
And Newaygo is a very, very good team.
Here’s what struck me most about these Lions on Wednesday.
Their approach to the game.
-They came to this matchup as they do all of them. Mentally ready to take the floor and unwavering from their pre game warmups, performing them as a preparation for the competition ahead of them.
-They do not get rattled. At least I haven’t seen it yet. Behind or ahead they play with the same intensity, never looking as though they are panicked or even slightly disturbed at what’s happening on the scoreboard early on. They just go to work every game, every minute.
-While they may face teams with more talent they are collectively as a team one of the strongest squads I’ve seen in many years. This is a team that absolutely feeds off each other and the way they respond as a cohesive unit makes each of the players better.
-They won’t be intimidated. While all play in this tournament has been physical none were more so than the game with Country Day. Jaylee Long took a pretty severe whack to the face, Emmerson Goodin ended up falling upside down to the floor in a scrum for a rebound and Jaxi Long was pushed, nudged, shoved and grabbed as the Jackets tried to keep her away from the ball. None of it mattered much to any of them. They just play on.
And most of all...
-There is absolute and undeniable belief in themselves. While others may have been surprised at their accomplishments this season they were not. After last season they knew they belonged here and this season they made that crystal clear.
Coach Thomasma after the Wednesday win: “This is obviously a once-in-a-lifetime moment. I don’t care if you’re a traditional power or not, this is not easy to do. Sometimes you have to win not playing your best. Sometimes you win playing your best. These players have that mindset. That championship mindset.
“We’ve had teams make runs on us this tournament, both ways — and (the players) are just tough, they don’t get flustered. They just keep playing hard and get the job done. Hopefully, we can do that one more game, on Friday.”
Jaylee Long, Anna Brummel and Lily Ruehmeier will be wearing the Lion uni for the final time in the final game of the high school basketball season. These are three players who have made a difference on this team and they deserve to go out with a state title.
And Friday evening at the Breslin is where they and their teammates will get it done.
Newaygo’s Elite Eight Heading To The Finals
Photos by Alexis Mercer
Story by Ken De Laat
Newaygo 55 Country Day 39
An octet of warriors took the floor at Van Andel Arena Wednesday afternoon.
And once again they triumphed.
Detroit Country Day presented the latest challenge to the blue collar ballers who have torn their way through the postseason on a mission to capture what was taken from them last year.
And that challenge was met and overcome in style.
There was a lot of game played on that court and the young women who took the floor for Newaygo, this group of players who seem to operate as a single unit, showed anyone watching just how good they are.
The first quarter saw the teams testing each other out like a pair of heavyweights in the ring. It was clear from the start this was going to be a physical game and the substantial Newaygo crowd voiced their displeasure with what they felt were non-calls. With DCD post player Abulu dominating the early glasswork Goodin and Fisk were scrapping with her in the paint and midway through the first Goodin hit the floor hard, and was taken to the bench to be examined. She was later able to return to action and played some of her best ball of the season, a high bar indeed.
The second saw DCD’s Arico zero in with a pair of triples early on. Down 17-15 Jaxi Long fired in a three, Ruehmeier popped in one of her baseline beauties and Jaxi found an opening and tossed a floater in for 2.
Abulu split from the line and Jaylee Long stole an inbound pass and sped down the court to drop one in. Yokely and Jaxi exchanged buckets and the Lions went to break up 27-20.
The Jackets came out of intermission swinging. A deuce and a three cut the lead to 2. Meanwhile Jaylee took an inadvertent elbow to the face, but seemed to shake it off and resume her spot on the court.
Goodin converted an offensive board into 2 points then following a timeout scored again. Ruehmeier once again found net from the base.
The teams went back and forth with the quarter ending 39-34 Newaygo.
Then came the fourth.
DCD went to Abulu who scored the first 4 pints of the perion and brought her team within a point. On the next possession Jaxi was fouled and hit both shots.
There was still tension in the crowd as the Jackets seemed to keep hanging around.
Enter Anna Brummel.
Brummel fired in a three that put a charge into an already amped up Lion team. Next DCD possession Jaylee took a steal and threw a football style pass to Goodin who took it in and suddenly the lead was 8.
And from there, once again, the Lions defense truly never rested.
Their in your face, ‘don’t be bringing that stuff in here’ approach to Country Day paid off. You could see the fatigue of the young Yellowjacket team become a factor late in the game. The Lions had simply worn them out. The once crisp passes found their way into Newaygo hands and were converted into easy points on the other end. They sent Lions to the stripe as the game wound down but there was no slowing down the Newaygo express on this afternoon.
Jaylee Long: ”Even when it got close it was something we all knew we wanted so bad. We knew we were almost there and just looked at each other, stayed together and just kept pushing.”
And in the end notched another win in what has truly been a remarkable season.
And now Breslin.
For all the Marbles.
And (just as we had hoped) a rematch with the Portland Raiders.
Newaygo vs. Detroit Country Day
Van Andel Arena 3pm Wednesday
By Ken De Laat
Ok, one can imagine those 13 state championship banners Country Day owns might be a bit intimidating. Their last one came in 2018 and a year later the Coach (Frank Orlando) that mentored those 13 state champs retired.
And despite that collection of hardware consider that none of those teams will be taking the floor Wednesday afternoon.
The Yellow Jackets are young and led by 6 foot senior Chelsea Abulu (#32) who has been described as a ‘walking double double’ with her rugged play in the paint.
Freshman Jaidyn Elam (#11) can splash it in from all over the court and sophomore Aysia Yokley (#3) is skillful at the point.
The Lions are really on a roll. They have dispatched the #2 team in the state rankings and the #7 before that. Wayland came in as OK Gold champs and sent a strong South Christian team and Wolverine Conference top dog Plainwell to the sidelines before getting dismantled by the Lions.
This one should be a barnburner. A big game, a big venue and a lot on the line since the winner heads to East Lansing to take on the survivor of Portland/Parma West
And how fun would it be to have Newaygo and Portland in a rematch of the only blemish on what has been a truly remarkable season for these gutsy gritty young women who wear the black and white?
But it won’t come easy. The ‘Jackets are fast, they pressure well and can really shoot the ball. And though a mostly young team, those players chose to attend a school with a lengthy tradition of athletic excellence, a tradition attracts talent to their doors.
And yet there is a good deal of talent that wasn’t drawn to Newaygo because of the athletic tradition, but by geography alone.
Their names are Jaylee Long, Jaxi Long, Anna Brummel, Lily Swinehart, Grace Painter, Kayla Fisk, Lily Ruehmeier, and Emmerson Goodin
.And regardless of what happens over the next few days…
These young women are champions.
Never a Doubt!
Lions barrel their way into the semis.
Story by Ken DeLaat
Photos by Alexis Mercer
It started out looking like it could be a tight one. Wayland immediately went to their 6’3 center Aimsworth who spun and scored and the Wildcats got a stop to take possession.
Then Jaylee Long forced an offensive foul then on the ensuing possession drained a three.
Sikkema split a pair at the line for Wayland then Aimsworth dropped a 2 then soon after fired one from distance and the substantial Newaygo crowd seemed a little nervous with the 8-3 deficit.
But the Lion players didn’t.
Jaxi Long responded with 2 straight lasers from distance and as the quarter wound down Emmerson Goodin knocked one down just before the buzzer and when they came off the floor there was a sense the team knew they were in charge.
The second quarter saw a defensive gem on display as the Lions simply took the game out of Wayland’s hands. Jaxi hit a floater and Aimsworth answered with a pair from the line.
11 points later the Lions had a 13 point lead after a Jaylee Long triple a Lily Ruehmeier deuce, 2 from the line by Kayla Fisk, a Lily Swineheart split and an Anna Brummel triple.
More importantly Goodin, Fisk and Brummel kept the ball out of the hands of Aimsworth slapping away passes and converging on her when the ball was sent her way. Parrish Hudson did what she could but the Lion defenders were spot on tonight. When Brummel hit her second three of the night the half ended with Newaygo in front by 9 and not looking back.
Wayland crept back early in the third as Fisk picked up a 4th foul and the Lions were limited to a Jaxi Long three. The Wildcats got within 3 but Jaxi crushed another from somewhere close to a mile outside the arc and the lead was 6.
Jaxi then found some space in the lane and slid in a pair of floaters then with seconds remaining she fired a cross court pass to Jaylee who burned the nets and it was 39-26 entering the fourth.
For the Lions to lose they would have had to collapse and despite Fisk on the bench in foul trouble and Goodin playing with 3 there was no way a collapse was going to happen.
Aimsworth scored 7 points in the quarter but even before the halfway point of the quarter the ‘Cats began trying to foul enough to send the Lions to the line and once there, the Longs did not disappoint.
Jaxi Long led the Lions with 19 points and 6 rebounds. Jaylee Long had 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Emmerson Goodin had 6 points, 10 rebounds and 5 steals.
Coach Thomasma: “We didn’t come out strong offensively to start the game, though defensively I thought we did well all night. We did a good job on #10 (Hudson) and I thought Emmie (Goodin) did real well on #30 (Aimsworth). Both good players.
“Brummel had a big shot for us at the end of the second and Jaylee got that pass at the end of the third and knew what to do with it.”
“Wayland’s a good team with good coaching and we’re just happy to be moving on.
To make the semi-finals in Division 2 is an unbelievable accomplishment. This team believes in each other and it shows night in and night out." "We will enjoy the win and get ready for a very athletic and tough Detroit Country Day team on Wednesday."
Yep. Another game and those 8 teams we spoke of in the preview are now down to four.
And the Lions are one of them.
The dream continues for this team and while Wednesday brings a matchup with the perennial powerhouse known as Country Day out of Detroit, the impressive resume the Yellowjackets bring to Van Andel Wednesday afternoon isn’t going to mean a thing to these Lion players who seem to thrive in their underdog role. They have defied the prognosticators who have had them beaten on paper before each of their last few games only to see the Lions win where it counts.
On the court.