By Ken DeLaat N3 Sports
There is some serious talent in our local gyms as another season gets underway. Here’s a snapshot of the teams and later we gather some input on how the conference races shake out.
Newaygo Lions-Coach Nate Thomasma
Madison Berwald Sr.,Sophia Frisbie Sr., Kyla Rounds Sr.,Jessica Sanchez Sr.,
Jaylee Long Jr., Kendall Mathis Jr., Lily Ruehmeier Jr., Emmerson Goodin So.,
Jaxi Long So.
Anna Brummel Jr., Riley Goff Jr., Amaya Nelson Jr.
Nine returnees including their ‘starting six’ and the 3 seasoned seniors who will come off the bench along with a trio of talented newcomers will take to the floor for the Lions.
This is a fun team to watch with the Long sisters and teammate Frisbie returning from the All Conference squad and (more importantly) the N3 All Area team.
Mathis, Ruehmeier and Goodin improved dramatically last season, paticularly in their collective confidence.
From one end of the bench to the other the Lions play with a high degree of defensive intensity and his team never feels out of a game. Their relentless nature makes it seem they run out of time rather than lose when they fall short.
Coach Thomasma: “We’re hoping to be competitive again this year. The kids are working hard to make try and make that happen. Our goal is to continue to get better each practice and then see where that will take us.”
The team will open on the road December 3rd at Whitehall and their first home contest is against White Cloud on Dec. 17
Fremont Packers -Wes Zerlaut
Paige Vandenberg Sr Avery Curnett Sr., Natalie Jamieson Sr Madison Foster Sr Kaitlyn Waite Sr Chloe Shriver Sr., Calla Miller Jr.,Haley Zerlaut So.
Jeanelle Scharphorn Jr., Abby Vandenberg Jr., Bri Webber Jr., Carley Witteveen Jr., Kaitlynn Bennett So.
The senior laden squad returns a bevy of talent from last year’s second place finish including three players from last year’s N3 All Area team Vandenberg Miller and Jamieson.
This trio are a collective force on both ends of the court and Shriver is a clutch performer who seems to find her way to the ball when the games on the line.
Zerlaut can heat it up and pour in the points and Curnett provides a steady presence on the court. Waite and Foster help form a strong bench that includes 5 new players including sophomore Bennett who will likely be getting some time in the post.
Coach Zerlaut: “There were many girls that put a lot of time into basketball over the off-season. All the girls are working hard and doing everything we ask of them each day in practice. We are looking forward to seeing the results of that effort. This is a team that should be very competitive in the upper half of the conference.”
The Pack start their season at home on Dec. 3rd when they face Montague.
Grant Tigers- Coach Paige Paulson
Kirstyn Throop Sr., Kassidy Doornbos Sr., Ashley Longcore Sr.
Savannah Passage Sr., Mackenzie Ritz Jr., Trinity Swanson Jr., Zoe Carson Jr., Sami Wolff Jr., Sara Arends So., Jaycee Rider So.
A lot of new faces on the Tiger team and Coach Paulson will be looking to his senior leadership of Throop Longcore and Doornbos. Throop finds a way to score whether from the field or getting herself to the line but the team lost a lot of scoring from last year's squad so other players will need to step up on offense.
Coach Paulson: “We will be athletic and have competitive guard play. We are looking for our new girls to adapt quickly to the speed and skill of the CSAA.”
Grant travels north to open with the Cloud on Dec 3rd. Their first home game is Dec. 6 when they welcome in Cedar Springs.
In the Gold the dominance of Central Montcalm could be in danger since graduation took 3 starters from the defending champs but they still have Bailey Vissman and a group of players who know how to win.
Coach Thomasma believes the Hornets and Packers have an edge.
“Central Montcalm has had 2 straight 20-0 seasons and good talent back again this year. Fremont whas all 5 starters back from the 2nd place team in the league last year.
“Grant and Tri-County always are tough and well-coached. Big Rapids will also be a talented but young team.”
Coach Zerlaut is in his first year guiding the Packer Varsity. He also sees CM as the team to beat’
“It will be very interesting to see how the conference race shakes out. There were a few teams that had unusually tough seasons last year, that I expect to see bounce back. There were a couple teams near the top last year, that will be looking to move up this year. Of course, Central Montcalm has established itself as the top team in the conference in recent years, and will continue to be until someone can prove otherwise.”
“The league will be very competitive from top to bottom. There is a lot of great returning players and some very well coached groups. Each night will present new challenges as all coaches do a great job of preparing their teams. Again, the season could end in a multiple-way tie for first or second.”
Hesperia Panthers-Coach Vince Grodus
Emily Bayle Jr. Sadie Bolles Sr. F
Rachel Romero Jr., Allison Homfeld Jr., Emmi Tinkham Soph.,Angie Erickson Sr., Becci Castillo Jr., Clara Kunz Sr., Daelynn McKinnon Jr.
Three’s the charm? Vince Grodus returns to the bench for the Panthers for the third time and inherits a team that returns just one starter. Bayle upped her game during her sophomore season and will be called on to provide leadership. Should a couple players like Tinkham, Castillo, Romero et.al. show similar improvement this season the Panthers will win some games but lots of points graduated from the team that flirted with the .500 mark most of the year.
Coach Grodus: “We are very young with only 1 starter returning. We will look to improve and gain experience as the season progresses.I am very happy with the attitude, effort and teamwork I have seen at practice so far.”
Hesperia begins the season in Walkerville on Dec 3rd and returns to play Hart at home on Dec 10.
Holton Red Devils- Coach Joey Mason
Alissa Armstrong Sr., Madi Bosset Jr.
Kendra Dyer Jr., Kendall Greene Jr., Jasmine Vriesman Jr., Ally Sieber Jr., Kennedy Greene Jr., Lili Pratt Jr., Jalee Tice Jr., Jillian Underwood Sr., Summer Berquist Sr., Mariann Kowalski Sr.
While Hesperia returns just one starter it’s one more than the Red Devils will put on the floor. Armstrong and Bassett are the only players returning from a team that never broke into the win column so first year Coach Mason will be hitting the ground running with a new system new players and, likely, a new attitude.
The Devs open at home Dec 3rd welcoming in Wellspring Prep.
The Silver looks to remain in the hands of the Eagles led by the return of Bowers and Harrison and a long and strong bench. The Mohawks will be tough and the Cloud returns Strait and Bowman but Coach Grodus affirmed the Eagles were “the favorite by far” and as Coach Mason added “from what I have been told its Kent City's conference and we all just play in it.”