Never a Doubt!
Lions barrel their way into the semis.
Story by Ken DeLaat
Photos by Alexis Mercer
It started out looking like it could be a tight one. Wayland immediately went to their 6’3 center Aimsworth who spun and scored and the Wildcats got a stop to take possession.
Then Jaylee Long forced an offensive foul then on the ensuing possession drained a three.
Sikkema split a pair at the line for Wayland then Aimsworth dropped a 2 then soon after fired one from distance and the substantial Newaygo crowd seemed a little nervous with the 8-3 deficit.
But the Lion players didn’t.
Jaxi Long responded with 2 straight lasers from distance and as the quarter wound down Emmerson Goodin knocked one down just before the buzzer and when they came off the floor there was a sense the team knew they were in charge.
The second quarter saw a defensive gem on display as the Lions simply took the game out of Wayland’s hands. Jaxi hit a floater and Aimsworth answered with a pair from the line.
11 points later the Lions had a 13 point lead after a Jaylee Long triple a Lily Ruehmeier deuce, 2 from the line by Kayla Fisk, a Lily Swineheart split and an Anna Brummel triple.
More importantly Goodin, Fisk and Brummel kept the ball out of the hands of Aimsworth slapping away passes and converging on her when the ball was sent her way. Parrish Hudson did what she could but the Lion defenders were spot on tonight. When Brummel hit her second three of the night the half ended with Newaygo in front by 9 and not looking back.
Wayland crept back early in the third as Fisk picked up a 4th foul and the Lions were limited to a Jaxi Long three. The Wildcats got within 3 but Jaxi crushed another from somewhere close to a mile outside the arc and the lead was 6.
Jaxi then found some space in the lane and slid in a pair of floaters then with seconds remaining she fired a cross court pass to Jaylee who burned the nets and it was 39-26 entering the fourth.
For the Lions to lose they would have had to collapse and despite Fisk on the bench in foul trouble and Goodin playing with 3 there was no way a collapse was going to happen.
Aimsworth scored 7 points in the quarter but even before the halfway point of the quarter the ‘Cats began trying to foul enough to send the Lions to the line and once there, the Longs did not disappoint.
Jaxi Long led the Lions with 19 points and 6 rebounds. Jaylee Long had 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Emmerson Goodin had 6 points, 10 rebounds and 5 steals.
Coach Thomasma: “We didn’t come out strong offensively to start the game, though defensively I thought we did well all night. We did a good job on #10 (Hudson) and I thought Emmie (Goodin) did real well on #30 (Aimsworth). Both good players.
“Brummel had a big shot for us at the end of the second and Jaylee got that pass at the end of the third and knew what to do with it.”
“Wayland’s a good team with good coaching and we’re just happy to be moving on.
To make the semi-finals in Division 2 is an unbelievable accomplishment. This team believes in each other and it shows night in and night out." "We will enjoy the win and get ready for a very athletic and tough Detroit Country Day team on Wednesday."
Yep. Another game and those 8 teams we spoke of in the preview are now down to four.
And the Lions are one of them.
The dream continues for this team and while Wednesday brings a matchup with the perennial powerhouse known as Country Day out of Detroit, the impressive resume the Yellowjackets bring to Van Andel Wednesday afternoon isn’t going to mean a thing to these Lion players who seem to thrive in their underdog role. They have defied the prognosticators who have had them beaten on paper before each of their last few games only to see the Lions win where it counts.
On the court.