Lion win over Wildcats sets up long awaited showdown with Falcons
Photos by Alexis Mercer
Story by Ken De Laat
Newaygo 47 Montague 37
In a game showcasing the talent and teamwork that brought them a conference title and a District crown the Lions held a determined Wildcat team at bay and brought last season’s disappointing pandemic-related early end full circle.
The win delivered returning players a year-in-the-making matchup with West Catholic the team Newaygo was to meet in last year's Regional finals. The Falcons did their part by dispatching a stubborn but outgunned GR Christian.
But the undefeated Montague team did not go down easily.
Allison Hall opened the scoring and on the next possession was called for a foul on Kayla Fisk who converted both shots to tie the game. Hall soon picked up another resulting in a cautionary early trip to the bench.
The Lion defense began the game in high gear creating turnovers, rejecting shots and picking a few pockets along the way. At the other end they focused on getting the ball in to Emmerson Goodin who responded with a basket and twice finding her way to the stripe hitting 3 of 4 and with a Jaylee Long laser from distance sandwiched between Newaygo went up 10-2.
Wildcat senior Emma Flynn stepped up big for her team breaking the scoring drought with back to back triples that shrunk the lead to 2 but just as the Wildcat team and their fans started to build some momentum Anna Brummel quieted them down with a distance shot of her own to end the quarter with a 15-8 Lion lead.
The second quarter seemed to tell the tale of the game. Montague’s Andie Zamojcin put the team on her back and found a way to score, ripping the nets for 8 of Montague’s next 10 points Despite a couple of 2 point answers from Jaxi Long and Jaylee the Wildcats edged into their first lead since the opening basket.
And it would be the last one they would see on the night.
The Longs took it beyond the arc with Jaxi, then Jaylee connecting to make it a 5 point Lion lead. Fisk, whose defense created problems all night for the Cats took a steal downcourt for a score then Jaxi zeroed in again with a nothing but net buzzer beater and suddenly it was a 9 point Lion lead heading into the break.
This was a physical game between a pair of teams unafraid to mix it up and the second half put it on display. After a pair of trips to the line by Goodin and Lily Ruehmeier, the Osbornes (Braquelle and Kendall) finally entered the scorebook as the sharpshooters who had been stymied through the first half each banged in a three, the last one pulling the ‘Cats within 6 as the clock was winding down.
Except once again the Lions would punctuate the period as Ruehmeier dropped one with the quarter ending to push the margin to 8.
The 4th saw the teams exchange buckets and free throws early. With time winding down Montague began sending the Lions to the line in a last ditch effort to climb back. Again the Lions stepped up as Jaxi drained all 4 shots and Jaylee went 3 for 4.
And Newaygo was moving on.
Coach Thomasma: “Just a great game. We were able to hit our threes, limit our turnovers and stay out of foul trouble. All those simple sounding things that win games. Hall getting in foul trouble early affected them and without her inside presence we were able to run our trap defense more effectively.
“I was real happy with the defense tonight. We knew this was going to be a tough one. Hey, they were 17-0 for a reason. They’re well coached and compete hard.”
And now it’s West Catholic, another highly rated and undefeated team that stands in the way of the Lions and a Regional title.
“Obviously we saw what we have to play next but as our coaches said, it's a good problem to have.We’ll give it our best and let the chips fall where they may and as Jaylee said after the win last week, whatever happens, happens.
“I know it gives us another day to be around these girls. They’re awesome kids and they work their tails off.
“Hopefully we’ll get it done Wednesday but one thing I know is we’ll show up.”
No question there. This is a team built on drive determination and an unquenchable thirst for winning.
They will most certainly show up.