N3 All Area Teams
The season started on November 5th when ‘official’ practices began. Many of the players were moving over from the football fields, soccer fields, volleyball courts and cross country courses to the gym while others who played the game year round were prepping to meet the players from other teams they knew and sometimes played with from the AAU courts.
4 ½ months later their season came to grinding to an end with a loss.
After all, there are over 1400 teams that take to the court for about 20 games and then move on to tournament play. Of those only 8 finish the season with a win. One out of about 180 teams.
We salute the coaches, ADs (particularly the AD secretaries), team managers, and the majority of fans (we don’t have to clarify if you’ve been to a game) as well as those men and women in stripes who strive for fairness on the court.
(We remain puzzled as to why all the best coaches and referees are seated in the stands rather than on center stage but that’s another story altogether).
But most of all we salute the players. All of the players. While this article focuses on the young men and women who have excelled on the courts this season there are many more who contribute by preparing their starters for the games, putting in just as much practice time and taking the same lengthy bus rides to the far reaches of the conference only to spend most or all of the game cheering on their teammates. They may only see a few minutes of playing time but their contribution is far more significant than the stat sheet will ever show.
We selected our teams based on personal observation and the invaluable input from coaches who sent us information on games all season. Covering a multitude of schools and being a bit on the thin side when it comes to personnel, this information has been vital to our coverage. While some are more consistent than others we recognize that after a week of practices, on top of the grueling task of directing the games and all the other work that goes with coaching young people we ask they take even more time to send us info. When they follow through we are greatly appreciative and when they don’t...well, we try to understand.
Hannah Brown- White Cloud
Wow, what a career. Earlier this season Hannah shattered the all time White Cloud scoring record for girls basketball. Later in the season she eclipsed the highest boys career total and before she was done she landed in the MHSAA record book as well finishing with 251 shots canned from beyond the arc for 5th on the all time list including 76 this season.
Kurt Brown was as proud to be her coach as he is to be her father.
“Hannah did all of these things with class and a smile on her face. She faced the toughest defender night in and night out, box and ones, double teams, and still got it done. Very proud of her success in the classroom and on the court. She will be greatly missed!”
Sophia Frisbie- Newaygo
The consummate defender who wreaked havoc in the backcourt,Sophia was the glue girl for the Lions this season this year. One of the top 2 or 3 in scoring, rebounder, assists, and steals. She was also the best on the ball defender on the squad. Her assignment was always the other team’s best guard and she did a good job of stopping them.
In a game against Grant, Sophia banged in some big time shots and in the tournament loss to Comstock Park she was able to neutralize one of the top players in the OK Blue while dropping in some clutch shots from the charity stripe.
Coach Nate Thomasma: "Sophia made a big jump from her sophomore year on Varsity. She takes coaching very well and is willing to take any role that will help the team be successful. Sophia has made herself into a great defender and leader. Her offensive game has grown and I look forward to working with her again this offseason."
Natalie Jamieson - Fremont
Natalie averaged just over 8 points a game and ran her opponents ragged with her high octane energy level. A fun player to watch who seems to be all over the court as she added to her scoring by picking off 7 boards and over 4 steals per contest. A versatile defender she swatted away 5 shots against Chippewa Hills while grabbing 7 steals and against Big Rapids she put the game away with a dozen 4th quarter points.
Coach John Krim: “Natalie played her best basketball down the stretch. She has a motor that just doesn't stop.”
Jaylee Long- Newaygo
The successor to Hannah Brown as the best offensive player in the area, Jaylee led the team in scoring (15.4 ppg) and assists (3.6 apg). Jaylee had 6 games where she scored over 20 points but the game against OK Blue Champion Comstock Park in the District Semi-Finals was her standout performance. She had 20 points by halftime and dished out a half dozen dimes for good measure.
Coach Thomasma: “Jaylee had a good sophomore year. She worked hard in the offseason on the court and in the weight room and it showed. She improved her totals in every category (points, assists, rebounds, turnovers) and I thought she stepped up as a leader. She seemed to get stronger as the year went on."
Jaxi Long- Newaygo
The younger half of Newaygo’s own Sister Act Jaxi was the second leading scorer (14.5) rebounder (4.2) and led the team in steals (2.8) and deflections. She also she scored over 20 points 6 different times.
And she is a freshman.
Teams got wise to her scoring ability early on but she has the quickness and guile to find ways of getting free and she is a scrapper on the boards.
She had a lot good games this year but her highlighted play was the buzzer beater she made to beat Tri-County on senior night. She also opened her Varsity career scoring 25 points and getting 8 rebounds against Holton.
"Jaxi had a good freshman year on Varsity. She obviously can score the ball but she is pretty good rebounder and off the ball defender. She has good basketball instincts. I'm excited to see what her sophomore season will look like after a good offseason of getting stronger."
The catalyst for the Packers and a player who can beat you in so many ways. Calla is a gamer and a clutch performer a trait she put on display when she hit a late game 3 point bomb against Newaygo to send the game into overtime where she notched some key assists to help the Pack win. Tremendous on the ball defender averaging 4 steals a game.
Coach John Krim” “Calla made our team go this year, Her scoring was down this year (6 ppg) as her role changed for us. We needed her to get others more involved in our offense and scoring and she did a great job of that. Our team was much more balanced because of her.”
Alexis Strait- White Cloud
Before the arrival of Alexis last season teams tossed everything they had at teammate Hannah Brown. Her ability to hit from outside gave WC another lethal scoring option and opened up the offense.
Despite missing time with an injury Alexis came back strong finishing with a 9 ppg average and knocking down 30 from beyond the arc. In a game against Holton she fired in a season high 27 points including 7 from distance.
Coach Jones: “Alexis is a very good defender and her anticipation skills were the best on the team. She can be very explosive. We’re very proud of her progress in her sophomore season and will look to have her take over the leadership role on the team next year. Needless to say, it will be a busy summer for her.”
Kirstyn Throop -Grant
Kirstyn averaged close to 8 points a game for the Tigers. She scored a season high 17 twice including a win on the floor of rival Newaygo when she found her way to the free throw line for 13 of her 17 points. In addition to scoring Kirstyn has a knack for finding her open teammates collecting as many as 8 assists in a contest against Chippewa Hills.
Paige Vandenberg - Fremont
The second half of last season saw Paige become a factor in the paint. This season she was a force. She nearly averaged a double double by leading the Packers with 10 ppg and pulling down an average of 9 boards while defending the goal by rejecting 4 shots a contest.Her highlights included nearly notching a triple double against Reed City and dropping 21 points on Chippewa Hills.
Coach Krim: “Paige has a great attitude and work ethic and was back in the gym as soon as the season ended.”
Nicole Whan- Grant
Nichole is a relentless defender and possesses what can only be called a subtle quickness as she seems to find a way to the ball. She was a huge factor on both ends of the court in the win over Newaygo grabbing 9 boards and hitting for 15 points.
Kade Bhuyan -Newaygo
Kade is one of those blue collar gritty players that coaches love and opponents don’t. He does so much away from the ball and became one of the key components of the Lions full court pressure. On offense he directed the flow and found a number of ways to get the ball inside to teammate Swineheart when the defense was doing everything to keep the ball out of the paint. Averaged over 6 points and 4 assists a game.
Coach Joe Barrette: “Kade was a huge part of our success the last two seasons. He was a big part of things we did defensively with his pressure and had the ball in his hands a lot. There were time when he was the best player on the floor.”
Carter Chase - Grant
Carter had a good season last year. He had a great season this year. His ball handling is exceptional and he can dish,score, steal and knock it down from anywhere on the court while mixing it up inside against taller opponents.
A fan favorite for his unselfish style of play and yet watching him gives one the impression he can score anytime he needs to. Earlier this season he canned a clutch triple against Tri County for the win.
Coach Joe Schuitema: “Carter’s floor leadership is outstanding. He handles the pressure. And has the ability to score and get teammates involved in the offense. Carter holds himself and his teammates accountable.”
Steven Holt - White Cloud
Steven led the Indians in scoring this year averaging nearly a dozen points a game. Three times he scored over 20 for an offense that averaged just over twice that.
Coach Bob Smith: “When Steven is on, he can shoot from anywhere and with anyone in the area. As a senior next year will be a player to watch.”
Logan Karnemaat -Fremont
Logan finished as the all time career and season leader in blocks for a Packer team that has had more than a few good defenders over the years. He ruled the paint and changed the way teams played their game while averaging over 13 points and over 8 boards, While he swatted away 4 shots a game what doesn’t show in the stats is the many times players in the paint simply could not get a shot off and stopped attempting to do so. Inna game against Grant he dropped 37 points on the Tigers and peeled 20 off the glass.
Coach Pete Zerfas: “ I believe Logan is the most dominant big man in our area in a long time. He was often double teamed and sometimes triple teamed. “
Jacob Klemundt- Hesperia
To say Jacob is a workhorse would be an understatement. On a 6 man team he logged more minutes than anyone in the area in his third and final varsity year. Every team that faced the Panthers keyed in on Jacob and yet he still managed to average 12 points 3 assists, 3 steals, and over 4 boards for an offense that averaged just 31 points a contest
After going all season without a win his team fell behind 13-0 in the district opener before clawing their way back into contention. In the 4th quarter Jacob scored 11 points down the stretch to give the Panthers their only win of the year.
Coach Doug Bolles:”He was our best player on both sides of the court.His defense was always intense, he was all over the court, his all out hustle was evident, no matter what the score.
.In my close to 30 years of coaching, Jake is one of the BEST student/athletes I’ve EVER coached.He is a coach’s dream and came back from labrum surgery in the off season (a five month layoff).He has a true passion for the game and he will be missed next season.
Braiden McDonald - Fremont
A great shooter and ball handler in his sophomore year Braiden forced his way into a deep and talented lineup and wound up averaging 10.9 points in about only 16 minutes per game on a team rotating 10 players His best game was against Newaygo where he scored 26 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals,in just 12 minutes of game action.
Coach Zerfas:”Braiden emerged as one of the most athletic and best players in the league as the season went on.”
Calvin Miller -Fremont
At 6’5” Calvin combined with his 6’10” teammate to simply shut down the inside game and forced teams to try to beat them from outside.
His best game was against Newaygo when he scored 18 points and had 8 rebounds while playing only 12 minutes in the game. Calvin averaged over 10 points a game, took down a half dozen boards and always managed to find a teammate or two with a timely pass.
Coach Zerfas: “Calvin shot 83.9% from the free throw line and qualified to participate in the BCAM top free throw shooters contest at the Breslin Center on March 16.”
Nathan fired in 17 points a game for a Red Devil team that put together a solid season finishing in a tie for the second spot in the Silver. An all conference selection last year and this year he jumped from a final four appearance with the Holton football team to the gym and led the team on offense averaging 17 points, 5 boards and 3 assists while on the defensive end he nabbed 3 steals a game as well.
Coach Luke Houseman: Nathan is a great kid with a lot of potential on and off the basketball court. I am looking forward to see him work hard this off season and have a great senior season. He can really score and we are working on him becoming a shut down defender. Nathan has the ability to play D3 or NAIA basketball and also carries a 3.97 GPA.
Connor Swinehart- Newaygo
When Connor wants to score he generally cannot be stopped. Possibly the best all around player in the area he can dominate a game and has tallied over 25 points numerous times. He has spent his senior year collecting accolades from a number of sources including the MHSAA and this season eclipsed the 1000 point mark which will put a basketball with his name on it in the Lion trophy case. Unselfish and cool headed he has been an absolute joy to watch on the court. Connor not only averaged nearly 20 points and 8 rebounds a game he also excelled in the classroom with an unweighted GPA of 4.14.
Coach Barrette: “Connor is a great player, student and person.I have had the pleasure of coaching him he last 4 years and will miss him as he moves on to life in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan.”
Connor VanderWilt -Grant
Connor’s senior leadership helped the young Tiger team to a great deal of success this season. He can rip the threads form outside the arc with amazing regularity and performs well when the game is on the line. His second half offense helped the Tigers knock off previously unbeaten Morley and in the season ending tournament loss to Sparta Connor did all he could to extend the season firing in 25 points including 5 baskets from downtown.
Coach Schuitema:”Connor’s team leadership is outstanding. An unselfish player with the ability to knock down 3's and hit the end of the game free throws.”
CSAA All Conference Teams have been announced with underclassmen taking 7 of the top 12 spots in the Girls Gold squad and half of the first team selections in the Silver. The Hornets who dominated the Gold and the Eagles who tore through the Silver each placed 3 on the all conference squad and added an Honorable Mention selection.
In Boys the league leading Packers and Mohawks each saw 3 players make the first team while adding one on the HM list.
Look for the N3 All Area Teams in an upcoming article
Hannah Putnam (12) Central Montcalm
Libby Ledford (12) Central Montcalm
Bailey Vissman (10) Central Montcalm
Grace Miller (12) Tri County
Jessica Thompson (12) Tri County
Paige VandenBerg (11) Fremont
Natalie Jamieson (11) Fremont
Kirstyn Throop (11) Grant
Jaylee Long (10) Newaygo
Jaxi Long (9) Newaygo
Holly McKenna (11) Big Rapids
Jorga Ray (12) Chippewa Hills
Taylor Harrison (11) Reed City
Kiara Wernette (12) Central Montcalm
Emma Sickelsteel (12) Tri County
Calla Miller (10) Fremont
Kylie Patton (12) Grant
Sophia Frisbie (11) Newaygo
Jenna Kondziolka (12) Big Rapids
Haley Mercer (12) Chippewa Hills
Kamyrn Myers (12) Reed City
Kenzie Bowers (10) Kent City
Zara Weber (12) Kent City
Jenna Harrison (10) Kent City
Breanna Berry (11) Morley Stanwood
Brooke Brauher (10) Morley Stanwood
Hannah Brown (12) White Cloud
Alexis Strait (10) White Cloud
Hailee Cantu (12) Lakeview
Alyssa Miller (12) Hesperia
Kaylie Piper (12) Holton
Lauren Freeland (12) Kent City
Kalee Ramsey (11) Morley Stanwood
Olivia Bowman (11) White Cloud
Ciarra Magnuson (12) Lakeview
Emily Bayle (10) Hesperia
Raina Romager (12) Holton
Logan Karnemaat (12) Fremont
Braiden McDonald (10) Fremont
Calvin Miller (12) Fremont
Jake Martinson (12) Big Rapids
Demarcus Lee (9) Big Rapids
Cody Kailing (12) Reed City
Gunner Hill (11) Central Montcalm
Connor Swinehart (12) Newaygo
Carter Chase (11) Grant
Mitch Kuzma (12) Chippewa Hills
Cameron Friend (10) Tri County
Joshua Zerfas (10) Fremont
Sam Alley (10) Big Rapids
Zac Saez (11) Reed City
Asher Vissman (11) Central Montcalm
Noah Cantu (12) Newaygo
Connor VanderWilt (12) Grant
Jack Frebes (12) Chippewa Hills
Bryce Hallman (12) Tri County
Callan Dillree (12) Morley Stanwood
Aiden McLaughlin (11) Morley Stanwood
Axel Woolworth (11) Morley Stanwood
Eli Carlson (11) Kent City
Brenden Geers (12) Kent City
Nathan Slowik (11) Holton
Aaron Herron (12) Holton
Steven Holt (11) White Cloud
Andrew Nummer (12) Lakeview
Jacob Klemundt (12) Hesperia
Landon Elenbaas (12) Morley Stanwood
Max Hudson (11) Kent City
Derek Pouch (12) Holton
Jacob Foster (11) White Cloud
Brien Keene (12) Lakeview
Logan Balkema (11) Hesperia
Lions End Season With Loss To Coopersville
By Alexis Mercer
Desire to win. It was the one thing that permeated every move on the court by the Newaygo Lions from minute 1 to the final second of minute 32 during the District Final game against Coopersville.
It did not matter that Coopersville was taller, more experienced, or the favorite to win. It did not matter to the girls that the Broncos' roster was filled with six seniors and four juniors to the Lions' 2 seniors, 4 juniors, 4 sophomores and 2 freshmen.
Without cockiness or running their mouths, without stepping outside their abilities, the underdog Lions took to the court on Friday night as a team ready to give it their all.
And that they did.
The shots just didn't fall like Newaygo needed them to in order to overcome the size and experience differences. Partially because of the Broncos' smothering of any Lion who dared touch the ball on offense. Coopersville offered zero breathing room; no space to even think about an open look. Somehow, despite this consistently stifling defense possession after possession, the Lady Lions stayed in the game for two and a half quarters.
At that point, Coopersville seniors took control of the game. Cara Vankempen turned on her smooth, dominant offensive skills and that was enough to end the Lions' season.
The final score was Coopersville 45, Newaygo 29.
"We really played our guts out tonight but we just couldn't get the ball in the hoop. A big reason for that was because of Coopersville," said Lions Head Coach Nate Thomasma. "I thought they played well defensively and made life difficult for us. We really couldn't get any runs going on the offensive end. Couldn't be more proud of my team though. They worked hard like always. It just wasn't our night."
Jaylee Long led Newaygo with 14 points and 6 rebounds. Jaxi Long had 9 points. Emmerson Goodin had 8 rebounds.
Cara Vankempen led the Broncos with 21 points.
Only Lions Left Standing
By Alexis Mercer
Comstock Park got a quick dose of the one-two punch of the Long sisters Wednesday night in the second round of Districts. Jaylee Long first drained a three, followed the next time up the court by freshman Jaxi Long. And in case anyone thought that might be a fluke, Jaxi quickly followed it up with a second 3 to go up 9-3 over the Panthers.
Junior Sophia Frisbie was given the assignment to defend Park’s offensive power house, McKenna Bent, who was the spark for the Panthers on Monday night in their win over Fremont. Bent was quieted by Frisbie’s quick feet and smothering defense, which left room for the Long girls to put on a first half show.
Jaylee Long ended the first half with 20 points, having drained 4 three point shots. Jaxi Long had 10, Sophia Frisbie 8, including going 4-5 from the line, and Kendall Mathis rounded out the Lions’ 40 points with her own layup for 2.
Park was quiet heading in to the locker room down by 12.
In case the Panthers’ fans were hoping the Lions would cool off while in the locker room, Jaxi Long put that idea to rest, draining a 3 to start the 2nd half.
Then Newaygo started to spread the ball around, with Sophia Frisbie, Jaylee and Jaxi Long, Kendall Mathis, and Emmerson Goodin all getting on the board to maintain the lead.
Park’s Bent was determined to fight her way back into the game, not ready to end her junior season. She popped a three and a couple field goals, pulling the Panthers within 5. The Lions on the line proved to be the difference maker. Key defensive plays by freshman Emmerson Goodin put her on the line, draining two and keeping the score headed in the right direction for Newaygo.
In a tense final two minutes of the game, the Lions stuck to their game plan, made crucial shots, and made the free throws they needed to win 62-51 and head into the District Finals on Friday night at 7:00 PM against Coopersville.
Coach Thomasma of the Lions said, "The girls played a great game tonight. They battled hard the whole game against a really good Comstock Park team. The girls came out ready to play early and then were able to withstand a couple of runs by Comstock Park. Frisbie, Goodin, and Jaylee Long hit some big free throws in the second half."
With their win, the Lions are the only Newaygo County team left playing for either the boys or girls.
Round 1 Girls Districts
Monday, March 4 saw the first round of District play for Newaygo County teams. Fremont and Grant played Comstock Park and Coopersville respectively. Hart played against Hesperia while Tri County faced off against Alma.
Newaygo and White Cloud had first round byes and will see action on Wednesday, March 6 against Comstock Park and Hart.
Comstock Park 47 Fremont 34
The Packers struggled to score early while CP was nailing it from distance hitting 4 early triples and building a 15 point lead by intermission. Fremont steadied themselves after the break and used their press to fight their way back into the game, forcing Comstock Park to go 8 consecutive possessions before scoring. But once again the shooting went cold for Fremont and their fouling increased. The Panthers hit their free throws down the stretch to put the game away and end the season for the Packer girls.
Coach Krim: “ I was very proud of the way our girls battled back. We could have thrown in the towel at halftime but they fought like crazy to cut the lead to 5 with under 2:30 to play. Our bench kept the girls on the court positive with the belief we could come all the way back and our fans were great with their support.Torey Reichert-Slater, our only senior, played her best game of the season.”
Reichart-Slater, Paige Vandenberg and freshman Haley Zerlaut each hit for 7 points for the Pack while Natalie Jamieson was outstanding in the paint pulling down 10 boards and swatting away a trio of Panther shots.
The Panthers move on the face Newaygo at 5:30 Wednesday.
Coopersville 54 Grant 32
Coopersville and Grant went bucket for bucket to start the first quarter of the game on Monday. Three minutes into the game the score was tied at 6 with Grant's Cecelia Male having scored 4 of those points and Kylie Patton with the other 2. But Patton had also matched those points in fouls, resulting in her being forced to sit the bench, which drastically reduced Grant's ability to match Coopersville's size under the basket.
Fouls and unforced errors, along with Coopersville's strong defensive pressure led to the Broncos capitalizing and ending the first quarter with a 15-8 lead.
The second quarter was back and forth, with Coopersville taking a strong stance and asserting their offensive dominance. But the third quarter Grant fought back mightily. The Tigers were able to pull the score within 4 points and the home crowd roared their approval and support.
The fourth quarter, however, Coopersville pulled away without looking back, ending the Tigers' season.
Hart 54 Hesperia 36
The Panthers were down by just 5 at halftime but the Pirates came out of the locker room and fired in 18 third quarter points to pad their lead to 15 and hold off the hosts for the win.Hart was led by Nicole Rockwell who finished with 17 points while Jayd Hovey dropped in 15.
Hart moves on to face White Cloud Wednesday at 7pm.
Alma 49 Tri County 35
Photos from Grant vs Coopersville
Photos from Fremont vs Comstock Park
Gold, Silver Boys bounced early
Of the 14 teams who make up the Gold and Silver divisions of the CSAA none of the boys teams will be taking part in Regional play.
Newaygo, Hesperia, Morley Stanwood and Central Montcalm made it into District finals but Coopersville, Hart, Pewamo Westphalia, amd Alma triumphed over the final four CSAA survivors.
Fremont, Grant, Tri County, Chip Hills, Big Rapids, White Cloud, Holton, Lakeview, and Kent City were one and done while Reed City defeated BR before falling in the semis.
Now it is the girls turn.
At Grant there are 6 strong teams competing to move on to the Coopersville Regional with Fremont opening the action against Comstock Park Monday.
CP ring a bell Packer fans? It was the Panther boys team that ended a magical season for Fremont who came into the opener riding a 17 game winning streak. A Park team that won only 5 times all season took them out before bowing to eventual champ Coopersville by a point in the semis.
The Panther Girls? They went 14-5 and won 7 of their last 8 claiming a share of the OK Blue title
The Pack (12-8) stumbled a bit toward the end of the season before posting a pair of wins at the finish. Both teams have won some tight games and lost a few as well. Fremont will need Vandenberg, Jamieson, and Miller to step up big and they may need some late game heroics from Shriver who shines in the clutch. Getting a few long distance hits from Curnett would help immensely. The 5 losses by Park were by a total of 19 points or less than 4 a game so keeping it close will be vital for Fremont.
Newaygo (13-7) gets the winner in the semis and the Lions behind the leadership of Jaylee Long won 6 in a row before falling short against a really good Whitehall team in the season closer. Jaxi Long, Goodin, Mathis, Frisbie and Ruehmeier fill out a starting squad that has evolved into a formidable fivesome and there is bench help led by Mya Berwald and Sanchez. Coach Thomasma has done a great job in developing this young team.
If their opponent is Fremont the Packers won both contests with Newaygo by 3 points, one in overtime. The Lions need to stay out of foul trouble which has plagued them in most of their losses.
Grant will face Coopersville a team that had a strong season going until the last two weeks of the season when they dropped three in a row, beat a Kenowa Hills team that cannot score points and needed 2 overtimes to knock off the Blue cellar dwelling Allendale Falcons.
The Tigers are a good team, much better than the squad that began the season and they finished strong. The Broncos will be tough to tame though and while Grant has the advantage of playing at home, 5 of their 8 losses have been in their own gym. This one is tough to call and will come down to which team can put together a hot streak at the right time.
The winner gets Sparta (13-7).
Tri County (12-6) faces a tough Alma (14-4) team in Shepherd. Should the Vikes win two games and get to the finals they would likely face Central Montcalm for the third time this season, a team that won their first two matchups by a total of 81 points. Of course the Hornets could lose to host Shepherd in the opener, but if you’re offered the Blue Jays and 20?
I wouldn’t be inclined to take it.
The Hornets got bounced in the Districts by Big Rapids last year and they have tweaked the team, played a brutal schedule, then marched through an undefeated season with their eye on the prize.
They are not going to have a let up this time.
Hesperia (9-9) opens play in their gym facing Hart( 9-10). We don’t know much about either team except they have both won 9 games.
The winner faces White Cloud where sharpshooter Brown is wrapping up a stellar career and would love to have a shot at heading to McBain for Regional play. Strait is back from a mid season injury and playing well and Watson has emerged as a force in the paint.
The Spartans of Mason County Central (15-5) are in the upper bracket and should be in the finals since they face a Shelby team they have handled easily twice this season. MCC has only lost to 3 teams. Oakridge and Whitehall twice each and Manton. Should the finals see Cloud facing the Spartans it could be a shootout.
Lions Bow Out To Broncos In District Finals
Photos and story by Alexis Mercer
From the second the clock started to tick until the very last seconds of the fourth quarter, the story was clear. The Coopersville Broncos had come to win and were not going to accept anything less than complete dominance.
That does not mean the Lions were just going to lie down and let the Broncos walk out of the gym with a trophy without earning every point. After all, the seniors would be fighting for the right to wear their Newaygo jersey another day.
The pace was quick to start, the intensity high. Neither team found their way to the bottom of the net on the first try.
Until Coopersville did. Then again, and again. And Newaygo, though they got some good looks, couldn't get the ball to sink.
The Lions were down 0-11 with 2 fouls against them and 3:28 on the clock in the first. It wasn't until Kade Buhyan dropped in a field goal with 1:38 left that the Lions finally broke the scoreless spell. Francisco Rios took the ball to the hole and got fouled, making the shot and one, which left the score 5-20 at the end of the first.
Coopersville did not stop with the pressure, shooting underneath, outside the arch, and everywhere in between. Two more minutes went by with Newaygo unable to find an offensive answer in any way.
Kade Buhyan charged to the basket to drain two more shots but as the buzzer rang for half, the Lions went to the locker room down a crushing 7-37.
The first four minutes of the 2nd half it looked like maybe the Lions had found a way to stop Coopersville's lightning offense, holding them to only 4 points, while scoring 23 of their own between Francisco Rios, Ryan Brummel, Connor Swinehart and Noah Cantu.
But that 18 point differential was as close as the Lions would be able to come the remainder of the game.
The Broncos would go on an 8-2 run at the beginning of the 4th quarter to seal the deal and own the District Title.
Final Score: Coopersville 59, Newaygo 37
Noah Graff, a senior at Newaygo High School, recently signed a letter of intent to play football at Hope College next season.
Graff played for Scott VanEssen at Newaygo, where he earned the following honors: 1st Team CSAA linebacker - 2017, 2018; 1st Team Muskegon MLive linebacker - 2018 ; 1st Team All Area Division 5-8 linebacker - 2018 ; 1st Team All Dream Team Division 1-8 - 2018; 2nd Team All State Division 5-6 - 2018
Congratulations to Noah and his family.
At the Varsity Girls basketball game on Thursday, February 28, Connor Swinehart was awarded an honorary basketball that will don his name and be preserved in the trophy case at Newaygo High School. Swinehart, a senior at NHS, a three-year Varsity player, reached the 1000 point mark for his career. He is only the third boy in the history of Newaygo to earn this honor.
Swinehart will play with his team on Friday, March 1 at Sparta High School against Coopersville for the District title at 7 PM.
Teams head for next week’s districts
Central Montcalm 65 White Cloud 42
One of the state’s elite teams came to the Cloud for a visit and capped off their regular season record with their 20th win against no losses.
”Central Montcalm proved to be as good as advertised,” said Indian Coach Kurt Brown.
The Indians battled for 3 quarters but the 2nd quarter proved to be their demise when the Hornets buzzsaw ran off a 24-7 advantage.
White Cloud was led by sharp shooter Hannah Brown with 27 points including firing in 6 from long range, while grabbing 4 steals and passing out 4 assists.
It was another record breaking night for Brown as she became the all time leading scorer, boys or girls, in White Cloud History with 1,595 points.
Alexis Strait added 6 points and 4 assists and Cassie Watson took 7 off the glass for the Indians who open district play next Wednesday facing off with the winner of Hart vs Hesperia @ Hesperia.
Whitehall- 47 Newaygo 41
The Lions battled a Viking team who came into the game having won 14 of their last 15 games. Newaygo held a 2 point lead as the teams headed into the final frame but the Vikings were able to take the lead and hold it in the closing minutes.
"It was a tough, physical, up and down game tonight. There were a lot of momentum shifts and lead changes throughout. I thought we had good looks but in the 4th but our shots didn't fall. Give credit to Whitehall. They're a good experienced team that plays solid basketball. Happy with the effort and intensity of my team. It was a great game to get us ready for the district round."
Jaylee Long led the Lions with 15 points. Jaxi Long had 12 points and 6 rebounds. Emmerson Goodin had 9 points to go along with 7 rebounds.
Whitehall was led by Abby Seeger with 13 points.