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.”