Packers fight off Tiger attack to capture District crown
By Ken DeLaat
Photos by Mike Gesler, Catalpa Photography
Fremont 61 Grant 55
They filled the gym at Tri County. There were the usual suspects on hand, a raucous traveling student group of Packers and their Tiger counterparts, and the family members, alumni and team followers from both sides. But others came as well. Players from Newaygo and Tri County who had been part of this tournament, coaches from around the area, and a whole lot of folks hoping to see a good basketball game.
They got one.
This one was like a heavyweight fight between a pair of top contenders. Each team took their measure of the other. Each went to their strength and were countered by adjustments. Coaches Pete Zerfas and Matt McCorkle played a substitution chess game looking to create matchups that could be exploited and both worked the officials in a game that saw an elevated level of physicality between the squads.
When Calvin Miller, who would be an absolute force on the floor for Fremont, nailed a bucket to open the scoring it gave the Packers a lead they would hold all night. He followed with a three that was immediately answered by Tyler Naffziger then Logan Karnemaat who had his first attempt blocked by Patrick Lancestremere made his signature spin move to lay one off the glass and draw a foul from Lancestremere. His conversion made it an 8-3 game.
The teams exchanged points with Longcore hitting and Schmidt dropping in a pair from the line then Riley Krim went the distance off a steal to stretch the lead to 7.
The Tigers punched back.Michael Frey hit a jumper then after a stop Naffziger ripped a triple and Grant pulled within 2. Miller and Lancestremere exchanged but as the period buzzer went off Carter Moon let one go from distance and found net to put the Pack up 5 after one.
The second quarter saw Fremont working it in to Karnemaat with Krim, Schmidt and Miller taking turns getting the ball in his hands. A quick third foul sent Naffziger to the bench and the Grant offense struggled in his absence falling behind by 11. His return seem to spark the Tigers as Frederick Hull got open for a score and Carter Chase tripled while Chase, Frey and Lancestremere drew points at the line.In between they were still unable to stop Karnemaat who scored twice. It looked to be a 7 point Packer edge at intermission but Carter Chase drew a foul with a second left on the clock and amidst a sea of noise emanating from the Packer student section cooly dropped in both. The teams went to break with Fremont up 31-26.
The second half the teams continued to exchange blows. A pair of hits by Frey and Naffziger drew the Tigers to within 3 but Schmidt and Moon answered then Krim zapped a shot from the top of the key and the lead jumped to double digits.Frey got to the line to split and topped it off with a triple off a steal that brought the Pack back into range before Bailey Baddis who had missed his first few attempts ripped one from distance.the lead crept to 10 points and with 3 ½ on the clock and down double digits the Tigers had one more run left.
Naffziger drew a foul, hit the pair, grabbed a steal and fired in a three then off a stop got free again and his deuce got Grant back within 3 points. Fremont responded by going in to their big guy for 2 then on the defensive end saw him slap away a Tiger attempt leading to a Schmidt pair from the stripe and a 7 point edge.
Less than a minute remained when Naffziger again provided the counterpunch with a bucket from another area code. Schmidt was fouled and went to the line for a 1:1 as the Packers tried to nurse the 4 point lead toward the buzzer. The shot bounced off and Calvin Miller hauled it down for a huge rebound that would get.Schmidt back to the line where he split to make it a 5 point edge. Chase got to the line for a split with 17 seconds left and Krim was fouled shortly after to end the scoring with a free throw.
“It was very similar in the first half to the first two times we played Grant,” said Packer Coach Pate Zerfas.” We had chances to extend the lead and we just couldn’t. They’re so scrappy and well coached and they just never stop playing.They’re just a really hard working team.
“I’m really proud of my guys for staying with it. They could have really fallen apart and they didn’t. they made some mistakes but they collected themselves and did what they had to do to win.”
Coach Zerfas was asked about the play of Miller and responded,“Calvin Miller came to play. He was playing extremely well early in the season then he was out almost a week with the flu and it took him a long time to recover.When he came back he didn’t play well and wasn’t as strong physically. He’s been slowing building himself back up and you could tell early in the game he was on a mission, He was a monster offensively, defensively, rebounding, everything.
“We expect Logan (Karnemaat) to play well and he did but we had guys stepping up all night. When Krim broke through with that layup then stole the ball and scored another layup that gave us 4 points in 4 seconds. And Ben Schmidt sometimes goes unnoticed because he’s not flashy but he just grinds. He never stops. I wanted to get him some short stints on the bench tonight but I didn’t. He was out there the whole game.”
Karnemaat put together a stellar game dropping in 20 points and snaring 15 rebounds while dominating the paint on defense much of the night. Miller finished with 13 points while pulling down boards and the Krim/Schmidt backcourt scored 10 apiece.
Naffziger hit for a game high 24 for Grant.
Fremont moves on to Regional play Monday night when they travel to West Catholic to face the Sailors of South Christian at 8pm.