'Regular Dudes' Earn Ultimate Opportunity
March 23, 2018
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.
Ferndale Caps Winter Season with 1st Boys Hoops Title Since 1966
By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com
March 25, 2023
EAST LANSING – One team was going to end a long championship drought in Saturday’s boys basketball Division 2 Final.
Ferndale’s was especially lengthy, and spanned more than five decades.
And now it is no longer.
The Eagles won their first Finals championship in 57 years with a 44-38 victory over Grand Rapids South Christian at Breslin Center.
Ferndale had last won a state title in 1966.
“The drought is over,” Eagles coach Juan Rickman said. “That’s big time, and the biggest part about making it down here was seeing how charged up the community was and the school was so charged up. It’s the greatest feeling to see how vested our community was in our success.”
Ferndale senior Christopher Williams led the way with 16 points and four rebounds.
“It feels great,” Williams said. “Especially since the past four years we’ve been to the same place and lost twice in a row to the same team, and now it feels like weight is lifted off my shoulders.
“We started off the season 1-5, and going till now we knew if we stayed together through adversity then we could do it. And it made it more impactful that it was our coach’s first state title, and that’s what we wanted to do.”
Added senior point guard Cameron Reed, who had a game-high seven assists: “It’s incredibly special. I wasn't born back then, my teammates weren’t born and my coaches weren’t born. It definitely rejuvenated the whole city and community.”
Ferndale led 8-4 at the end of the first quarter, and both teams shot poorly in the first half. The Eagles connected on a paltry 24 percent from the field, and South Christian on 35 percent of its attempts. Nate Brinks drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Sailors a 16-14 halftime lead.
Junior guard Jake Vermaas opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer to make it 19-14, but Ferndale made a charge.
The Eagles sliced the deficit to one (25-24) on a 3-pointer by Trenton Ruth, and Cameron Reed tied it at 28-28 with an acrobatic layup.
“Our team was mentally strong, and I’m so proud of them for their accomplishment,” Rickman said. “Just so committed to the process and just being resilient.”
An 8-2 spurt by Ferndale over the first three minutes of the fourth quarter made it 36-30.
“That was extremely important, and we always want to win the first four minutes,” Rickman said. “And we tried to open up the fourth quarter with what we call a kill; we want to get five straight stops and score on two or three of those possessions so we can build a lead. We did that fairly well against a good team.”
South Christian was attempting to win football and basketball Finals championships during the same school year, and was looking for its first basketball title since 2005.
“It was a really hard-fought game and I thought we played at our speed, but it got away from us a little bit,” first-year Sailors coach Taylor Johnson said.
“But it doesn’t take away from what we accomplished this year. We’ve been through it all, including three season-ending injuries, and to still make it to the state finals is an incredible feat.”
Senior Jacob DeHaan and Vermaas led the Sailors with 14 points apiece, while senior Sam Medendorp added seven points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots.
PHOTOS (Top) Ferndale raises the Division 2 championship trophy Saturday night at Breslin Center. (Middle) Christopher Williams (13) tries to power past South Christian’s Sam Weiss (23) to the rim. (Below) Cameron Reed (0) leads a break for the Eagles.