By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Holland West Ottawa may be a group of really talented athletes who are just as good – and in some cases better – playing other sports.
But Saturday, they could prove to be the best Class A basketball team in Michigan as well.
They’ve certainly earned the opportunity. For the third straight game Friday, the Panthers survived a nail-biting finish, this time 53-50 against Novi to earn their first trip to an MHSAA championship game in this sport.
The second matchup of the day at Breslin Center featured 10 lead changes, and neither team led by more than seven points at any point. The last lead change came with 3:24 to play, and Novi took a shot to tie the score again with 21 seconds to go.
“This whole tournament we’ve been saying this could be our last game if we lose – and we finally made it to our last game tomorrow,” West Ottawa senior forward Tyler Bosma said. “It’s nice to be able to say that, no matter what.
“It’s obviously a game. You never know what way it can go. … Having just a strong group of kids that’s stuck together for a while helps. We know we want this just as bad as everyone around us, and that’s what’s gotten us those runs in a close situation.”
West Ottawa (25-2) will face reigning champion Clarkston at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Panthers opened their closing pursuit with a 56-52 overtime win over Muskegon in the Regional Final, then downed East Lansing 58-55 in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal.
They led Thursday’s game for 21 minutes and 45 seconds, but fell behind 43-42 on Tariq Woody’s basket with 4:19 to play.
Yet, West Ottawa then scored the next seven points and made 6 of 7 free throw attempts down the stretch.
“We’re really gifted with some good athletes. But the best part is they compete,” West Ottawa coach Steve Windemuller said. “As a coach, you wonder, ‘What am I going to get tonight?’ … Every time these guys bring it. They’re an amazing group about bringing it and playing hard no matter who we’re playing.”
The Wildcats (17-9), also seeking their first championship game berth, had won 11 of their last 12 games entering Friday, starting four seniors who had brought the team back from opening the season 1-5.
Novi outrebounded West Ottawa 39-28 and had one fewer turnover, but struggled to get in rhythm and made only 35 percent of its shots and 6 of 28 tries from 3-point range. Woody finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds, and senior guard Traveon Maddox, Jr., had 13 points.
“We weren’t prepared to lose; that’s the thing. We had a goal set to play tomorrow, and it’s tough,” Novi coach Brandon Sinawi said. “Sometimes throughout the course of a season you don’t play a great game. Unfortunately for us, it was today. They played the way they wanted to, and they had us playing their style, and that’s not what we wanted to do.”
Bosma had 13 points, 12 rebounds and five assists for West Ottawa, and Wade also scored 13 points. Senior Drew Pederson had 12 points.
The Panthers have less than a day to gear up for Clarkston and Mr. Basketball Award winner Foster Loyer – although they did defeat finalists Brandon Johns with East Lansing and Marcus Bingham, Jr., with Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the regular-season finale.
West Ottawa has a Division I baseball prospect in Bosma and a Division II football and basketball recruit in Wade, and as a unit they’ve found their way through to the last day of the season.
“With a baseball player and an all-state football receiver, and another all-state linebacker, we’ve just got a bunch of regular dudes,” Windemuller said. “Part of it is we’ve earned our respect right now. I told them in the locker room pregame, we’ve earned everything we’ve gotten so far. I think we deserve to be here.
“I think we’re going to come here and try to give our best and try to win tomorrow, and that was the message today too.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Holland West Ottawa’s Xavier Wade looks for an open teammate while guarded by Novi’s Brett Mackay. (Middle) Trendon Hankerson (1) gets a hand up as Wade drives to the basket.
Matt and Derek Seidl have a lot to talk about these days.
The father and son duo both have highly-ranked, undefeated basketball teams going into the first full week of February, something neither of them saw coming.
“We were hoping for a season like this, but you never think about winning this many in a row,” said Matt Seidl, the father and head coach of the 15-0 Olivet Eagles. “When our season ended last year, we knew our top seven players would all be returning.”
About 50 miles south of Olivet, in Jackson County, Derek Seidl has the Napoleon Pirates off to a 14-0 start. They are sitting on top of the Cascades Conference.
“We have a really talented group right now,” Derek said. “We were 19-3 last year and brought six guys back. Having that experience has been very valuable.”
Olivet is ranked No. 2 in MPR in Division 2 while Napoleon is No. 9 in Division 3. Both are top-10 teams in the latest Associated Press polls as well.
Matt Seidl, 60, graduated from Ypsilanti Lincoln High School in 1981 and went to Eastern Michigan University to become a sportswriter. He didn’t begin teaching until he was in his early 30s, but, by then, was already a veteran coach.
“It was getting difficult because I was always leaving my job to go coach,” he said. “I decided to go and get my teaching degree.”
He wound up in the classroom, which enabled him to dive deeper into coaching. He spent several years coaching at the middle school and high school levels, boys and girls, with stops at places like Pinckney, Ypsilanti, Manchester, Willow Run and Romulus. He was the JV boys basketball coach at Dexter when his son, Derek, made the team as a freshman.
By then, Derek already knew he would be on the bench one day as a coach.
“I played for my dad in youth travel stuff, and he was on staff for one year my freshmen year of high school,” Derek said. “He was a varsity coach all growing up. I was always at games. I loved talking to him about the game, the strategy of it, the Xs and Os. Even when I was younger, I thought about coaching someday. Growing up if you would have asked me what my dream job was, it would have been a teacher and coach.”
Derek, 27, graduated from Dexter in 2014. He played four years of college basketball at Lawrence Tech University. After getting his master’s degree and teaching degree, he got his first coaching job as an assistant coach at Chelsea, under Josh Tropea, who also had coached with Matt.
Derek’s first teaching and head coaching job came at Springport in 2019-20. This is his third year at Napoleon.
“It’s been a really good fit here,” Derek said. “Before I started looking into the job, I barely knew anything about Napoleon. It has worked out well.”
Matt is also the athletic director at Olivet. If he would have had his way, Derek would be coaching at Olivet.
“Derek did a really good job at Springport, and we had an opening and he interviewed and was recommended for the job, but before they offered it to him, Napoleon hired him,” Matt said. “He would have been the perfect choice to teach math and coach basketball.”
With Derek no longer in the running, Matt came out of coaching retirement and was named head coach.
“It was going to be a one-year deal, sort of a band-aid to get us to the next year,” he said.
Instead, Matt’s stayed on and put together quite a successful team. The Eagles have gone 47-6 since the start of the 2020-21 season. This year’s team has taken a big step.
Junior Bo Lincoln, a 5-foot-11 junior point guard, leads the team in scoring (17.1 points per game), assists (3.6 per game), steals (3.0 per game) and free throw percentage at 78 percent.
Drew Priddy, a 6-5 senior center, is averaging about eight points and seven rebounds a game, and junior guard Bryce Wine is averaging nine points a game and leads the team in 3-pointers.
“We had quite the youth movement a few years ago,” Matt said. “We go 8-9 deep now and have a lot of experience. Having those young guys play a couple years ago is paying off.
“We are a good team, but we’re not a 70-possessions-a-game type of team. We know who we are.”
Derek also knows plenty about his dad’s team.
“I definitely keep track of them,” he said. “We talk on the phone on a daily basis – 30 minutes about Napoleon and 30 minutes about Olivet. We bounce things off each other. We run a lot of the same stuff as far as systems. We’re very connected on things.”
Matt and Derek’s teams tried to have a good old-fashioned scrimmage, or exhibition, last year but – with Derek’s team ahead – Matt received two technicals and got kicked out of the game. It’s a fun story for both to tell now.
“That was wild,” Derek said. “It was a cool thing we had going. We were winning so I was enjoying it, but that put a whole different spin on the situation.”
Matt said they probably won’t do that again. Probably.
“My wife said no,” he said. “Derek and I have talked about it, but I don’t know that it would ever happen.”
Derek said one day he’d like to coach with his father.
“I’m very energetic and into it, just like he is,” Derek said. “There are some similarities. I played for him and watched him a lot. I try and pull some of the things he does, being prepared. We get along super well. I don’t know if I could trust him to not get technical fouls.”
He’s kidding, of course.
Napoleon has a core group of four players with a ton of experience.
Devonta Habern is a 5-11 junior who is on the varsity for the third year and runs the show at point guard. Six-foot-5 senior Trent Jester is one of the best big men in the conference. University of Michigan baseball commit Grant Bradley is a three-year varsity starter and outstanding athlete. Holden Vanpoppel is an all-state track athlete who has turned into a pretty good basketball player.
“Grant is super steady and having a great year,” Derek said. “He looks like he’s been in the weight room since he was 5 years old. He can guard anybody. Vanpoppel is an unbelievable run and jump athlete. All four of these guys are averaging in double figures. They are really good athletes who have invested in the program and put the time in.”
“We’ve got a very talented group,” Derek said. “They are a little looser than I am. I tend to be very calculated, kind of analytical and serious. They like to goof around a little bit. They keep me even-keeled. They know when to get serious. It’s good for me to have a group like that.”
Derek said his squad wants to exceed expectations this year.
“We talk about that after every game – don’t be satisfied just because we are undefeated,” Derek said. “There is plenty more to accomplish. Last year we went 18-2 in the regular season and 19-3 overall, but we didn’t win a league or a District. Our guys have bought into that mindset. That’s helped us get to where we are.”
Matt is keeping a close eye on not only his team, but Derek’s as well.
“I probably get more stressed watching his games,” he said. “I’m really proud of what he has been able to do.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Father Matt, left, and son Derek Seidl are leading undefeated boys basketball teams this season at Olivet and Napoleon, respectively. (Middle) Senior Brayden Wine makes a move toward the basket for the Eagles. (Below) Derek Seidl instructs his players. (Olivet photos courtesy of Olivet High School; Napoleon photos by Jeff Steers/JTV.)