Pirates sail into first Final since 1993

March 20, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Nick Spitzley, no doubt like the other eight seniors on Pewamo-Westphalia’s basketball team, dreamed growing up of playing for an MHSAA championship.

He needed to use his imagination, since the first and only time the Pirates did play for a Class C title was in 1993, a few years before he was born.

“Obviously we always came out on top,” Spitzley recalled. “Making a lot of shots, and I was always getting pumped up with my team.

“Since I was little, it’s always been a dream, and it’s come true. We’ve been playing together since fifth grade, maybe before that.”

P-W’s seniors are halfway through the final weekend of their high school careers and more than halfway to making that dream come true.

The No. 10-ranked Pirates advanced to Saturday’s Class C final by defeating No. 9 Muskegon Heights 54-44 in the first Semifinal on Thursday at the Breslin Center. P-W’s nine seniors will get to play in the final game of the season for the first time in school history, at 4:30 p.m. against No. 2 Detroit Consortium.

Pewamo-Westphalia will become the second straight team from the Central Michigan Athletic Conference to play for the Class C title, and third in eight seasons. Laingsburg fell in last year’s Final by a point, 40-39, to Flint Beecher. Bath won the Class C title in 2007.

Also from the CMAC, Fulton was Class D runner-up in 2011 and Fowler finished the same in 2002.

The Pirates had to come back over the final minute to beat Beecher in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal, and made it two-for-two against some of the state’s most storied programs by then eliminating Heights, which played in its 22nd Semifinal and fourth over the last five seasons.

P-W has won 81 percent of its games under coach Luke Pohl during two tenures over a combined 17 seasons. But the Pirates haven't had the chance to add the championship game chapter to their story in more than two decades.

“Knowing we had to beat a team like Flint Beecher and Muskegon Heights, with the history behind those schools, in unbelievable,” Pohl said. “If you follow our league, you’ve seen how many times the league has been here the last 10 years. It’s rock ‘em, sock ‘em basketball in the wintertime, and we’ve got great coaches there – those kind of guys sharpen my skills as a coach. But you’ve gotta have players to win, and we’ve got really good players.”

Spitzley is a four-year starter, one of the top scorers in school history, and did his part Thursday with 22 points and eight rebounds.

But the Semifinal win was truly a full senior effort, as all six players who saw time were 12th graders and a pair added big plays to Spitzley’s game-high scoring surge.

The first came 1 minute, 14 seconds into the second half with the Pirates trailing by a point. Guard Evan Fedewa scored and was fouled on his way to the hoop, and hit the ensuing free throw to give the Pirates a 29-27 lead. They would never trail again.

But Muskegon Heights came close to taking back the lead. The Tigers (20-4) pulled within four with 4:20 to play when P-W center Lane Simon was fouled on a score and also made the following free throw to push the lead back to 46-39 and seemingly drain the last bit of momentum from Heights’ comeback run.

Simon added 17 points, 10 rebounds, and both Fedewa and Kyle Nurenberg grabbed nine rebounds for the Pirates.

Junior Antonio Jones led Muskegon Heights with 16 pints, and senior Eddrick Tornes added 12. Jones made what could be one of the shots of the tournament, a spinning pull-up jumper thrown up without a look at the basket. But overall, his team shot just 24 percent from the floor including 14 percent as P-W pulled away during the second half.

Still, the return run was an accomplishment coach Dalrecus Stewart made sure to note. The Tigers have been here plenty of times, but this one was a little different – the school closed after spring 2012 and re-opened that fall as a public school academy.

“I know (my players) are feeling hurt, but this was a little bit more than a basketball game for us with all of the things that have gone on in our city as well as our school district the last few years,” Stewart said. “The championship they won today was about bringing hope to despair. They are a shining bright spot and what they’ve done is beyond measure. They’re my champions.”

Click for a full box score and video from the press conference

PHOTOS: (Top) P-W’s Lane Simon (1) goes to the rim during Thursday’s Semifinal win over Muskegon Heights. (Middle) P-W's Nick Spitzley works to get past Muskegon Height's Eddrick Tornes.

HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Muskegon Heights’ Aaron Sydnor (3) wins the tip-up battle to score late in the first half against Pewamo-Westphalia. (2) Pewamo-Westphalia opened the second half with a 17-3 run. Lane Simon drives for two during that spurt.

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.  

Emmerson Farmer (0) gets a hand up high as Owen Rosendall puts up a jumper.“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. 

Click for the full box score.

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.