Calvin Christian Follows Hot Hand in C

March 24, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

EAST LANSING – Grandville Calvin Christian’s success is built on team basketball, feeding the hottest hands at opportune times.

Smoke might have been rising off Tony DeWitte’s fingers during the first half of Thursday’s Class C Semifinal against McBain at the Breslin Center.

The 6-foot-2 senior guard made 10 of 11 shots during the first half for 26 points, and Calvin Christian opened up a lead that stayed in double digits for good over the final 20 minutes to advance to Saturday’s championship game with a 65-42 win.

DeWitte finished with 31 points on 12 of 15 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds, and had both of his assists late as the game crept out of reach for the previously-undefeated Ramblers.

“I came out shooting with confidence. The ball was going in, and my teammates found me, got me open,” DeWitte said. “The rim feels two times bigger like that. The ball keeps going in, and it’s great.”

Allow Calvin Christian coach Ryan Stevens to elaborate.

“When he gets hot like that, his teammates know that,” Stevens added. “We have a lot of kids who can do that. They find each other when they are hot, and the thing about Tony is he can score so many different ways. You’ll see him score inside, outside, off the dribble, off the pass, off a screen, off a back cut. He’s just a very good scorer all-around, very hard to defend.”

Calvin Christian (21-4), unranked at the start of the postseason, will face reigning champion Flint Beecher at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. The Squires will be playing for their first championship since 1994 after reaching the Semifinals for the first time since that season.

DeWitte entered this week as his team’s leading scorer at 18.2 points per game, and Stevens said his standout shooter’s Thursday performance wasn’t rare – he and DeWitte’s teammates have been witness to that kind of scoring outburst going back to when his seniors were finishing up elementary school.

But it certainly seemed to knock McBain a bit off its game, as the No. 3 Ramblers never warmed up offensively and gave up more than 60 points for the first time since giving up that exact number in the season opener. 

“We tried some different things. They hit everything,” McBain coach Bruce Koopman said. “They executed extremely well, and that gave them excellent opportunities to get back and play defense on us. I thought there was a time when (the deficit) was 10, and we got three or four stops in a row. But we didn’t capitalize. Maybe if we’d gotten a few of those to close the gap, it would’ve been different.”

Senior guard Braden Stevens added 10 points and seven assists for Calvin Christian, which made an incredible 60 percent of its shots from the floor after opening with a blistering 70-percent success rate during the first half.

Junior guard Logan Eling had 18 points to lead McBain (26-1), while junior center Craig Sterk had nine points and eight rebounds and senior guard Cole Powell added nine points and six rebounds.

Calvin Christian (21-4) was prepared for elite competition after facing a league schedule that included two matchups with reigning Class B champion Wyoming Godwin Heights and two more against last season’s Class C runner-up, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian. The Squires lost all four of those games, but came back to beat NorthPointe in the District Final.

“We always talk about ladders, and at the beginning of the season it felt like we were midway up the ladder,” Stevens said. “A lot of teams get there when the tournament starts, but it felt like we were already up there midway through the season.

“We had a couple of losses to Godwin and NorthPointe, and we weren’t satisfied with our record. (So) we wanted to work toward the end of the season.”

Click for the full box score.

The Boys Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System.

PHOTOS: Calvin Christian’s Tony DeWitte (20) pushes the ball upcourt during Thursday’s first Class C Semifinal. (Middle) The Squires’ Braden Stevens (10) works to stay in front of McBain’s Logan Eling.

South Christian Sails Into Latest Challenge, Earns Saturday Return

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

March 24, 2023

EAST LANSING – The Grand Rapids South Christian boys basketball team faced adversity when it lost standout sophomore Carson Vis to season-ending injuries in last week’s Regional Final.

The Sailors faced a different kind of adversity Friday in a Division 2 Semifinal, as they were tested for the first time since late January.

South Christian responded, and showed a steely resolve that put the team one step closer to a championship following a 40-35 overtime win over Romulus Summit Academy North at Breslin Center.

The Sailors will play Ferndale in Saturday’s Division 2 Final.

“We talk about adversity all the time, and we’re missing our 20 points a game star player, and so we’ve had some throughout the season,” South Christian coach Taylor Johnson said. “It builds character.”

Summit’s Dontez Scott Jr. works to get past the Sailors’ Nate Brinks.

South Christian had won 15 games in a row entering Friday, all by double digits. Summit gave the Sailors their closest game since losing to Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Jan. 24. 

“We’ve been on a run here, and even as a coach, I feel like I haven’t done enough because we haven’t been in these situations,” Johnson said. “What a battle, and that’s what it’s all about. Two great teams with a lot of great players, and we found a way.”

Senior Jake DeHaan, who led the Sailors with 14 points, said he embraces playing in these types of games.

“This is what our team talks about, adversity, and we want to play in the biggest moments,” DeHaan said. “As a competitor, that's what you want to do. You want to play on the biggest stage against the best teams, and that's what we like to do.”

In a defensive struggle with points hard to come by, the Sailors maintained the lead throughout.

The Sailors took a 19-13 advantage into the half, but the Dragons rallied and cut the deficit to 23-21 with a minute left in the third quarter.

Summit’s Dominic Krzesowiak drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to knot the score at 31-31 with 30 seconds remaining in regulation.

In overtime, Nate Brinks buried a 3-pointer for South Christian after Summit took its only lead of the game.

Junior Jake Vermaas, who finished with 12 points, then made 6 of 6 from the free throw line to keep Summit at bay.

“I just kept dribbling with my head up and knocking down free throws when we needed them,” Vermaas said. “Staying focused and locked in, and I think that’s a credit to being on a big stage like this in football and being comfortable.”

The Sailors, who won the Division 4 football championship in November, will search for their first basketball Finals title since 2005.

Summit Academy (25-3), which shot 35 percent (16-46) from the field, was playing in its first Semifinal.

“We expected it to be a defensive game and every possession to be tough,” Summit coach Mark White said. “We expected to be challenged to execute and to challenge them to execute.

“We knew it would come down to who executed the best and took advantage of their opportunities. We came to battle, and I’m very proud of our team and our program that we made it this far.”

James White led Summit with 13 points and seven rebounds. Krzesowiak finished with six points and six rebounds.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) South Christian’s Jake Vermaas (0) makes a move toward the basket during his team’s Division 2 Semifinal win. (Middle) Summit’s Dontez Scott Jr. works to get past the Sailors’ Nate Brinks.