The gym was electric on Tuesday night in Grand Haven, MI. Elite basketball talent was on display all evening and four teams entered the confines of Grand Haven High School with plans to leave with berths into the regional championship. The unfortunate nature of the post-season meant that two teams would be leaving empty-handed.
Wyoming narrowly led West Ottawa at the half and seemed to be in control of that slim margin for most of the second half, but things began to slip as desperation set in for West Ottawa. With their season on the line, they managed to put together a small run and gain the advantage. That put them in the driver’s seat and allowed them to play keep away for most of the final 6 minutes. That strategy put them at the line and the Panthers managed to sink all but a couple down the stretch. Despite mounting a spirited effort, Wyoming could not get over the hump and lost a battle in the regional semifinal.
The second matchup of the night was a slugfest between two favorites to go the distance this post-season. The unfortunate news was that the two would be facing one another in the round of 16. Muskegon seemed poised for the opportunity to upset Northview and Mr. Basketball finalist, Kyler VanderJagt. They jumped all over the Wildcats in the early going behind impassioned defense and incredible shooting.
Northview also found themselves as the beneficiary of severe foul trouble to three of its starters and top two scorers, VanderJagt and Jalen Charity. That meant the Wildcats had to turn to their bench and next level of scorers to deliver quality minutes and most importantly: points. Not only did the Wildcats answer the call, but managed to maintain a lead going into half.
The second half saw more tough fouls called against Northview’s scorers, but Charity was able to see prolonged minutes, while VanderJagt patiently waited for time to dwindle low enough to step back on the floor in a close contest. Northview’s balanced attack slowly began to drain the Big Reds and the lead began to expand. However, every time it looked like Northview might run away with it, Muskegon would mount another run that kept things hopping in the packed gymnasium. In the end, Northview played like a veteran roster and never lost their composure, even as Muskegon pulled within striking distance multiple times. That poise will be necessary if the Wildcats are going to achieve their goal of a state championship.
Northview will face West Ottawa in the regional final on Wednesday night as heavy favorites.