Pennfield Adds Semifinal Win to Storybook Season
By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com
April 8, 2021
GRAND RAPIDS – The Battle Creek Pennfield boys basketball team doesn’t mind playing the underdog role.
In fact, the Panthers have to come expect it throughout the MHSAA Tournament.
They proved the doubters wrong yet again with a 62-52 win over Bridgeport in Thursday’s second Division 2 Semifinal at Van Andel Arena.
Pennfield jumped out to a double-digit lead and never looked back in securing the program’s first Finals berth.
The Panthers (21-2) will face unbeaten Grand Rapids Catholic Central (19-0) on Saturday at Breslin Center.
“I think we’re surprising a lot of people,” said Pennfield senior Ryne Peterson, who recorded 12 points and six rebounds.
“We’ve been seeing the picks, and we will embrace the underdog role. It’s nothing new to us. We were supposed to lose to Williamston, we were supposed to lose to (Romulus) Summit and we were supposed to lose to Bridgeport, so we’re used to it.”
Pennfield’s storybook season added another chapter as the Panthers never trailed after building a 13-3 lead in the first quarter.
Last week they won their first Regional since 1972, and hadn’t played in a Semifinal before Thursday.
“This is a group that started playing together in third grade, and I don’t think they would’ve thought we would get where we are tonight,” Pennfield coach Nate Burns said. “It was a dream, and for it to come to realization that Battle Creek Pennfield is going to play for a state championship on Saturday ... these guys are amazing.”
A strong start has been a staple of this team, and it was key in the win as the Panthers controlled the second quarter as well en route to a 33-17 halftime edge.
“We’ve been able to get off to good starts all year, and that’s been one of our strong suits,” Burns said. “The guys show up ready to play, and tonight we did it again. We wanted to put our foot on the pedal, but we knew Bridgeport was going to come back and fight and compete and they did. Our guys' composure the last couple games has been phenomenal, and we are a veteran group.”
The Bearcats, appearing in their first Semifinal since 2009, tried to battle back, and cut the deficit to six points (37-31) late in the third quarter after Remaureon Arthur’s 3-pointer.
It was as close as Bridgeport would get, though, as it never recovered from missing its first 10 shots from the field.
“I think nerves got the best of them at the beginning, but then we settled down and started playing,” Bearcats coach Kevin Marshall Sr. said. “We haven’t had to come back from that kind of deficit, and it was something we couldn’t overcome.
“We overcame a lot of adversity just to be here today, and it hurts, but I'm still proud of my kids. We just fell short today.”
Pennfield junior guard Luke Davis led the way with 25 points and was 10 of 13 from the free throw line. Junior Aiden Burns knocked down three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points.
The Panthers returned their top eight, including all five starters, from a year ago.
“We won a District championship last year and didn’t get a chance to finish, obviously,” Davis said. “We all had a goal to get here, and we just worked hard every day. Now we’re here.”
Pennfield held the Bearcats at bay by converting 14 of 18 free throws in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers are looking forward to the challenge of playing a talented Cougars squad.
“CC is a phenomenal program,” Burns said. “We know it's a big mountain to climb. We’ve taken a lot of steps to get to the top of that mountain so far, and we know we have one big hurdle to go on Saturday. These guys will be ready.”
Arthur finished with a team-high 18 points for Bridgeport (17-3), while Omarion Wilkins added 11 points and 14 rebounds.
PHOTOS: (Top) Pennfield's Luke Davis gets around the Bridgeport defense and scoops a shot during Thursday's Division 2 Semifinal. (Middle) Zalyn Martin (40) is among Bearcats to get a hand up as Davis looks to score. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
Second-Half Surge Sends Tri-unity Christian to 3rd-Straight Final
By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com
March 23, 2023
EAST LANSING — The Defenders will once again have a chance to do just that.
In what has become a usual rite of March during longtime head coach Mark Keeler’s 36-year tenure, the Wyoming Tri-unity Christian Defenders are once again headed for the Division 4 boys basketball championship game following a 54-37 win over Frankfort in a Semifinal on Thursday.
Making its third-straight appearance in a Final and 11th in school history, Tri-unity Christian will attempt to repeat as champion when it faces Munising in the 10 a.m. title game Saturday.
Junior Owen Rosendall scored 13 points and senior Roy Fogg added 11 on Thursday to lead Tri-unity Christian (22-6), which will go for its sixth Finals win.
“At the beginning of the year, we had some ups and downs in the season,” Rosendall said. “But we stuck to it and kept working.”
Tri-unity Christian got it done mainly by dominating the board, collecting a 41-22 rebounding advantage.
“I think our quickness on the boards outdid their size,” Keeler said. “I was really happy with how explosive we were on the boards.”
The discrepancy even surprised Frankfort head coach Dan Loney, who said rebounding has been a strength of his team all year.
“Going into the game, I would not have guessed they would have outrebounded us like that,” Loney said. “It’s one thing we’ve done well all year. I think honestly a lot of that came from their guard play. When their guards got to the rim (and) our bigs stepped over to help, their bigs were there to get their missed layups.”
Sophomore Carter Kerby led all scorers with 21 points to pace Frankfort (18-9).
“It was a fun season for sure. We look forward to the future,” Loney said.
Tri-unity Christian separated itself in the third quarter after Frankfort cut the lead to 29-26 with 4:40 to go in the period.
From there, Tri-unity Christian ended the third on an 11-1 run to take a 40-27 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We have a little more depth, and it helped,” Keeler said. “We were really trying to push the ball, and we were really trying to pressure them on defense. I think we wore them down a little bit.”
The Defenders continued to grow the lead in the fourth, taking a 48-32 advantage with 4:17 remaining after a 3-pointer by Rosendall and a basket by Akais Giplaye.
Tri-Unity Christian forced Frankfort into 12 turnovers and 38.9-percent shooting from the field while committing only six turnovers itself.
“We played great defense,” Keeler said. “That is what I was really happy about. We made them work for everything they had.”
Tri-unity Christian got off to a good start, taking a 16-8 lead after the first quarter before Frankfort settled in during the second.
Frankfort outscored Tri-unity Christian 13-9 in the second quarter to cut its deficit to 25-21 by halftime.
PHOTOS (Top) Tri-unity’s Jordan VanKlompenberg (3) puts up a shot over the outstretched arm of Frankfort’s Xander Sauer on Thursday. (Middle) Emmerson Farmer (0) gets a hand up high as Owen Rosendall puts up a jumper.