By Ken De Laat
Photo by Alexis Mercer
What a scenario.
Should Newaygo find themselves in the final it will either be a rematch with the GRC Eagle team that last season were shocked by their smaller (but quicker) opponents from the north…
Or a matchup with the Falcons who they missed out on playing last season for a Regional title and a trip to the Quarterfinals.
( N3 posted a fictional account of the game after the pandemic slammed the door on the season last March)
While at this point in the tourney every Regional tends to be made up of the best of the best with an occasional Cinderella crashing the party, this one has three teams with a collective record of 49-1 and a 5 loss GR Christian squad who took apart a good Catholic Central team to get here.
Here we go.
GR Christian vs. GR West Catholic 5:30pm
Only one team scored over 40 on the Falcons.
And they got beat by 24 points.
West doesn’t win games, they annihilate their opponents by an average of just over 40 points a game.
Christian is a solid, successful squad who has beaten some quality teams this season.
But I doubt they have enough to clip the Falcons.
Montague vs. Newaygo 7pm
These two premier teams have had one common opponent, Shelby.
The Wildcats put a beatdown on the Tigers in the opener then squeaked past them a week and a half ago. The day after that opening day loss to Montague, Shelby met up with the Lions who delivered a similar pummeling.
Montague and Newaygo both are deep in talent.
Hall, Zamojcin, Koetje, Meacham and, of course, Braquelle and Kendall Osborne who can zero in from long range, all provide scoring to be sure but more importantly they are demons on defense. Only 2 teams have scored over 40 on the ‘Cats.
And then there are the Lions.
They win in so many ways. Offensive firepower, relentless and disruptive defensive play, mental toughness and the hearts of champions.
Last year they entered another strong Regional with little chance to get beyond game 1 and found themselves on the cusp of competing for the title.They played with determination and an ocean of heart.
This year they sneak up on no one. They are a well known team, scouted heavily and have played all year with a target on their backs.
And they have persevered.
Jaylee Long was the best player on the floor during the District. She was also the best player on the court during the regular season. She can score defend, pass, and above all lead. Montague will be giving her a lot of attention
Goodin is fearless in the paint. Her aggressiveness can sometimes lead to foul trouble and Monday’s opponents will look to crowd her inside.
Jaxi Long is a stealth weapon who will linger on the perimeter then suddenly explode for points inside and out.
Ruehmeier is adept at positioning which allows her to collect key points and rebounds. The Lions will need her if the ‘Cats collapse on Goodin.
Kayla Fisk is a relentless defender who will mix it up with anyone and has developed a nice touch around the basket. She will need to stay away from unnecessary fouls.
Anna Brummel can rip it from distance with the best of them and defends well. If she gets a hot hand the Lions can benefit from the attention the Longs will be getting.
When Painter and Swinehart enter the game the team doesn’t miss a beat. They both provide key minutes and are integral parts of the collective consciousness of this team. Their steady play will be a huge factor if the officiating gets tight and the whistles begin blowing with any level of frequency.
I unabashedly adore this team.
Have in the three seasons since most of them came together.
They are going up against an excellent Montague team and should they win they will likely, and finally, meet up with West Catholic. Both the Wildcats and Falcons have been and remain in the state rankings while the Lions seem to continue to be overlooked a bit.
That alone is similar to last season.
Let’s hope the result is the same in game one and should they get to game 2 perhaps that piece of fiction we produced last April could become a reality.