By Mike Gesler
Photos By Catalpa Photography and Alexis Mercer
Newaygo 78 Grant 63
“It doesn’t matter the record of these two teams, you know you’re going to get a good game,” said one of the officials to me prior to the start. Neither Grant nor Newaygo were in contention for the CSAA Gold conference championship, but you would have thought both were. That’s the nature this rivalry has become. The last time Grant and Newaygo met was in Grant’s house. The Tiger’s defended their home turf with the win by eight at 73-65. Now it would be Newaygo’s turn to hold home court.
“We let them control tempo early,” stated Newaygo’s Coach Barrette. “We were slow to everything.” Slow may be an understatement. Within seconds, Grant’s Tyler Naffziger put Grant on the board with three. Cooper Heinzman of Newaygo responded with two for the Lions, and then Grant went on a six point run. Naffziger once again hit three for the Tigers as the first quarter buzzer sounded. Of Grant’s 28 first quarter points, 24 of those points were from beyond the arc.
“After that first quarter, we decided that maybe we would have something to do with the tempo of the game. That kids made a couple of adjustments, and slowed down their hot shooting and great shooters, and just came back and played with a lot of confidence,” Coach Barrette shared.
Newaygo senior Morgen Manlick and junior Ryan Brummel each had a quick steal off of sloppy Grant passes to open the second quarter to bring the Lions within six points. Grant righted their ship, and brought their lead back to eleven, but that would be the last time the Tigers enjoyed a comfortable gap. With 2:33 left in the half, the Lions battled back. Within twenty-nine seconds, Newaygo dropped the lead from eight to two. And by the end of the half, Grant limped into the locker room with only a three point margin of 44-41.
“After we started playing well, we knew we were going to win. Pressure really amped up, and you could kind of see early in the third quarter our confidence started to go at the same time that their confidence was down a little bit. We start moving like that, we can beat a lot of teams,” Coach Barrette reflected.
The third quarter was the quarter one has come to expect from these two teams. Newaygo and Grant truly battled it out. Now I don’t know if it was the oppressive heat and humidity inside Newaygo High School’s gym, or the exhaustion of emotion that was left on the court when Grant beat Fremont on Tuesday, but even Grant’s Coach McCorkle knew his team had gone flat. “I don’t know what happened the second half. We had no energy. They made some adjustments. I would have to go back and watch it all, playing kind of a three quarters court zone. I mean we turned it over relentlessly. I don’t know if we ever stopped #24 or
#11 from driving in the paint. I mean they just killed us with dribble penetration. Against a team like this that’s not going to work.”
The short of it is simply this, Newaygo out played their rival from the south. Within two and a half minutes they tied the score. They then managed to keep the Tigers from ever getting more than a six point lead. And with 0.8 seconds left on the third quarter clock, the Lions took the lead for the first time, and never looked back. The fourth quarter solely belonged to the Lions as Newaygo totally took charge of the momentum of the game. After six minutes of play, the Lions extended their lead to fifteen, and spent the final two playing possession. As the final buzzer sounded, the Lions had defended their Pride Lands, and split the rivalry with a final score of 78-63. “Hopefully it was an off night. I don’t know. But they were the better team tonight, and that’s what it is,” Coach McCorkle shared.
Four Newaygo players were in double digits tonight. Junior Conner Swinehart lead in points with 23, followed by senior Jacob Polasek and junior Kade Bhuyan each with 12, and senior Richard Hearth with 10. Also contributing to the Lions victory were Mitchell Karrip (9), Cooper Heinzman (8), and Morgen Manlick (4). The Lions finish at 9-5 in the conference, and are currently 13-6 overall with one non-conference game left in the regular season against Whitehall on Tuesday.
Three Tigers found double digits in their losing efforts. Tyler Naffziger led with 20, followed by sophomore Carter Chase with 14, and freshman Fredrick Hull with 11. Also contributing to the Tiger’s effort was Michael Frey (6), Cole Chase and Patrick Lancestremere with 5, and Conner Vanderwilt (2). Grant finishes 8-6 in the conference, and fall to 9-10 overall with one non-conference game left in Shelby on Thursday.
Both teams will see each other once more this season as they match up again for the opening round of District play on March 5 in Tri County.