Lions roar into the quarterfinals. Play Wayland Monday at a site to be determined
Photos by Alexis Mercer
Story by Ken De Laat
Newaygo 55 West Catholic 48
Hearts of Lions.
Embodied in the 8 players who took the court against the highly rated West Catholic team and quite simply just absolutely refused to lose.
The Falcons threw everything they had at the gritty Lion team and everything they had on this night wasn’t quite enough.
This one was a battle for the ages with 7 lead changes in the first half alone.Make no mistake these teams showed up to play and to call this a physical game would be an understatement.
Outsized in both height and numbers the Lions relied on the formula that has brought them success all season long, solid defense, crisp passing, few turnovers, timely threes and, most importantly, an unwavering belief in themselves.
The teams hit the break tied and the third saw a bit of a cold spell for the Lions. Their defense and a pair of buckets by Goodin kept them close but when the 4th began Daetwiler’s basket gave the Falcons a 5 point lead, the biggest edge for either team since WC was up 8-3 early in the contest
Again, no fear. Jaylee canned a shot from distance and after a stop Jaxi drove in and let go of a floater that found net and the game was tied. Smith and Mileski went back to back for the Falcons but Goodin answered with a bucket then drew a charge at the other end. Goodin got the ball to Kayla Fisk who re-tied it with a shot from the wing.
Once again Daetwiler scored after a pair of Mileski free throws and with 2 minutes left the Falcons went up 3. The Lions came down with WC providing lots of pressure but Anna Brummel who hadn’t scored all night launched a beauty from beyond the arc that cradled the nets for the tie. Goodin and Mileski exchanged baskets and with just over a minute Jaxi Long was sent to the charity stripe where she knocked down both for a 2 point lead
It would be a sign of things to come.
Forced to foul, the Falcons sent Jaxi to the line 3 times and Jaylee once. The result was 7 of 8 and…
...a Regional title.
There were a number of heroics on the night. Emmerson Goodin had a monster game (again) with 10 really hard fought rebounds to go with 18 points, Kayla Fisk was a demon on defense rejecting a couple of shots from the paint as well as sprinting downcourt to slap away an easy layup on a breakaway. Lily Ruehmeier was awesome on the defensive side and broke a mini scoring drought early in the second with a timely basket and Grace Painter and Lily Swinehart gave the Lions tough, some much needed minutes off the bench.
Anna Brummel? She never wavered when she took the shot that propelled the rally.
And of course, the Long sisters. Jaylee was all over the court scoring critical points and finding ways to get the ball to her teammates under intense pressure while Jaxi simply dropped a cool 22 on the Falcons.
Jaylee Long: “We knew going in it was going to be a tough game but we weren’t scared, we came to play. They were a lot bigger than us and we struggled a little bit on the boards. It got really close there at the end. Anna’s three really got us up and Jaxi hitting the free throws at the end was really clutch.”
Anna Brummel. “I’m so pumped about my team. Everyone was so high energy tonight and I think we can go really far playing like we did tonight.”
Having witnessed this game we would have to agree with Ms. Brummel.
“Well I guess this changes a lot of spring break plans,” said a jubilant Coach Thomasma. “I know I’ve said it before but these kids are so great. They really deserve this. They earned it. They got behind but didn’t freak out. They never do.
“We played hard. Brummel hit a big shot for us and the free throws down the stretch were huge.
"That’s the best team we’ve played all year. They were a lot bigger than us but the girls just kept battling. We hung around there in the 4th and I reminded them that last year they were on this bench in a tournament game and 10 points down to Fremont before they came back to win the District.
“I told them this was their time.”
And indeed, it was.