By, Nick Vlietstra
More snow and more postponed games. Whether or not you like the snow and cold temperatures is beside the point. It is going to cause havoc with the scheduling here on out. There are teams out there that need to make up perhaps two or more games inside the next month of the season. Trying to make up conference games is tough, but still trying to make up some non-conference games makes things even trickier. Some conferences have a day already scheduled in as a make up day, but that is for one game, not two or three. You begin to get into areas that schools have no choice but to schedule games on back to back days. There really is no way around it.
Why is that a problem? You may say that they are young and they should have energy to play two days in a row. That is true, and some kids may be used to doing that from their AAU schedule. Still, playing a game takes a lot out of the players, mentally and physically. Thecoaches I’m sure would like a day or a practice so they can properly prepare their teams for both opponents. It could make for some interesting games and even possible upsets down the stretch of the regular season.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise considering where the snow has fallen, but the teams in the East played more games this week. Only one Friday game between teams from the West division was played and that was Mattawan making the short trip to Kalamazoo Central. Everyone in the West got a Tuesday game in with no big surprises. Portage Central was able to move back ahead of Kalamazoo Central with their win over Niles and the Giants losing to St. Joe. That really was the only movement in that division this week.
In the East, Loy Norrix and Battle Creek Central remain tied for the division lead with matching 8-1 records. They have separated themselves from everyone else and clearly are the top two teams in the division. It is going to set up two big games between those two teams, one of which is scheduled for this week. The Knights coasted to wins over Harper Creek and Coldwater this week. BCC beat Coldwater and then got avenged their only divisional loss of the season inbeating Gull Lake. The Bearcats are now 11-2 and winners of six in a row. Other than their loss to Gull Lake they have only lost to Holt on their first game back from Christmas break. While they may not have anyone as good as Bishop Robinson, they have a very good supporting cast with three averaging double figures. Their top two scorers are Trevin Alexander and Mohammed Albagaimi and both are threats to score from the outside. While they may not be one of the top scoring teams in the SMAC (55 ppg), they are one of the top defensive teams holding opponents under 45 ppg. I doubt they have an answer for Bishop Robinson, because no one does, but it may be about trying to slow down the rest of Knights’ team outside of him.
Stars of the week:
Bishop Robinson, Loy Norrix
No way to hold this guy out this week after his two monster games. Believe it or not, he grabbed one more rebound than he had points this week. He scored 22 points and had 19 rebounds against Harper Creek on Tuesday, and then came back to score 22 and grab and astounding 24 rebounds against Coldwater on Friday. Still no college decision for him though.
Robbie Ranville, Marshall
Marshall played only one game this week but Ranville made the most of the opportunity as the poured in 28 points to help the Redhawks to a key 55-54 win over Gull Lake. Marshall is now 9-4 on the season. Ranville is Marshall’s leading scorer this season getting close to 18 ppg.
Devin Daniels, Lakeview
One of the top up and coming players of the conference seems to be finding his stride. The Freshman scored 17 points in a loss to Sturgis on Tuesday and then came back to fire in 21 points and grab 11 rebounds to lead Lakeview to a rivalry win over Harper Creek. While he hasn’t been up with the Varsity the whole season, but he is showing he belongs scoring over 14 ppg since being brought up.
Big Games This Week:
Tuesday – Portage Central @ Benton Harbor. The Mustangs aren’t going away, but theschedule isn’t getting any easier. A trip to Benton Harbor this week is another chance to get a good win. PC won the first meeting 55-46.
Friday – Battle Creek Central @ Loy Norrix. The first of two meetings still to happen between the top two teams in the East Division. Who has the upper hand? Hard to say, but I would think that Loy Norrix needs to hold serve and get a win at home in this meeting.
Friday – St. Joseph @ Portage Central. It is a rematch of a game Portage Central won 47-42 back in December. At that time it appeared to be a big upset. The Mustangs trail St. Joe by one game in the division, and a win here puts them back into second place.
Like the SMAC the teams in the East played on Friday (or Saturday) while the West got the night off. I would have to say that hands down the team who had the best week in the conference was Paw Paw who went 3-0 and seem to be finding their stride at the right time. One Wednesday they beat Edwardsburg 60-58 and came back to beat Comstock on Friday. Not done yet they beat Dearborn Advanced Tech on Saturday at Davenport. It was a slow start to the season but the Redskins have won their last four. They are scoring the ball at a high rate during this stretch averaging 69 ppg. On top of that, they are getting contributions from a lot of different players. DeMarcus Leak has stepped up, averaging a double-double during this stretch, and Tanner Eubank has adjusted to playing the point. Only a sophomore, Eubank is doing a great job at getting everyone involved, as he averaged close to a triple double this past week.
The other big game on Friday saw Otsego survive again beating Allegan 58-51. They were onceagain trailing in the second half and going into the fourth quarter. I don’t know how they keep doing it, but they just keep winning. If I had to say, I think they are living dangerously. Still, they are 10-1 and have sophomores playing major roles. They have also lost a key contributor, as one of their prize sophomores, Mike Williams, has been lost for the rest of the season with an ACL injury.
Players of the week:
Tanner Eubank, Paw Paw
Eubank has taken control of the offense and the sophomore is beginning to blossom in a big way. On Tuesday he scored only 2 points but dished out 10 assists and had eight rebounds as they beat Edwardsburg. On Friday against Comstock he registered a triple-double with 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Still not done, he scored 31 points on Saturday against Dearborn Advanced Tech. Oh, that 31 points went along with 14 rebounds and 7 assists. If you don’t want to do the math, that adds up to 16 ppg, 11.7 rpg and 9 apg.
DeMarcus Leak, Paw Paw
Leak had a big week that was only outdone by his teammate. Still, what Leak did this pastweek was quite something too. He averaged a double-double getting 17.7 ppg, and 12 rpg. The highlight of the week was scoring 23 points and pulling down 14 rebounds against Comstock on Friday.
Gary Jones, Allegan
Another big week for Jones, unfortunately both games came in tough losses. He scored 31 points and had nine rebounds in a 79-76 overtime loss to Hopkins on Tuesday. He then scored 17 points in a seven point loss to Otsego. Jones continues to lead the Tigers scoring close to 17 ppg.
Big Games This Week:
Tuesday – Dowagiac @ Allegan. Allegan has battled hard in every game this year, and has just come up short a few times. Still they are 5-7 and play very well at home. This will be a tough one though. Dowagiac has an ability to humble quite a few teams.
Friday – Paw Paw @ Plainwell. Not a lot of great match-ups this week, but I’ll toss this one out there. Plainwell may not be scoring a lot, but they are still holding opponents down defensively. Paw Paw is playing as well as anyone right now, but going on the road on Friday night is never easy.
Of the teams at the top, Kalamazoo Christian had a good week and Olivet not so much. The Comets went 2-0 with wins over Pennfield and Olivet. In their win over Olivet they scored a season high 79 points. They now sit at 9-4, and currently are back in second place, which has become a revolving door. It is all about second place right now, as Schoolcraft is running away with the top spot.
Olivet, on the other side, went 0-2 with home losses to K-Christian and Parchment. Olivet foundout that it’s tough to play without one of the best players in the conference as Quinten Harris spent the week on the bench injured. One point to make is simply this. They lost their two games by an average of 16 ppg. Harris is averaging 17 ppg. Olivet has changed a little this year to build their offense around Harris, but with no Harris in the line-up, Olivet went back to more of their traditional up and down hectic style. In turn they had two of their worst defensive performances of the season.
Galesburg-Augusta went 1-1, but I would still say it was a successful week. They played Schoolcraft to a 5 point game, and with the way Schoolcraft is going right now, that has tobe classified as a success. They are the first team to keep a game within single digits against the Eagles. They came back on Friday to notch a win over Pennfield.
Players of the Week:
Luke Ryskamp, Schoolcraft
Schoolcraft picked up two more wins this week, and as usual Ryskamp could be found in the middle of both wins. In Tuesday’s win over Galesburg-Augusta Ryskamp scored 16 points and pulled down 20 rebounds. He came back on Friday to score 28 points and get 13 rebounds against Hackett. He continues to lead the conference in scoring at 22.4 ppg. The next closest to him in the scoring race is Quinten Harris who is scoring over 5 ppg less than Ryskamp.
Jack Binegar & Sam Nordquist, Parchment
Parchment played one game last week because of a Friday snow out, but they picked up a big road win over Olivet in that game. Binegar and Nordquist were both big reasons for that win. With no Quinten Harris in the line-up this duo was able to dominate inside. Binegar scored 18 points and had 8 rebounds, while Nordquist picked up a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
This Week’s Big Games:
Tuesday – Kalamazoo Christian @ Galesburg-Augusta. It is a race for second place in the KVA, and both of these teams are involved. The Comets are one game up on GA and a half game up on Maple Valley for second place. This marks the first meeting of the season between these two.
Friday – Galesburg-Augusta @ Olivet. It is a big stretch of key games for the Rams. This game may hinge on whether or not Olivet gets Harris back. GA won the first match-up 61-52.
Fennville picked up the win of the week with their upsetting Saugatuck on the road 70-60 on Friday. Fennville has been the team pulling off the upsets this season. Along with their win over the Indians, they are the only team who has beaten Decatur this season. Fennville has been scoring the ball at a much higher rate as of late scoring 74 and 70 in their two wins last week. Pete Alfaro and Aaron Overheiser have both been the key guys in this category with both getting over 15 ppg this season.
The other big game last week was on Tuesday and saw Gobles beat Watervliet 65-64. It’s another big win for Gobles who now sits all alone in first place in the North Division. The win also marks the seventh straight for the Tigers who now have a 9-3 record. As for Watervliet, they have lost two in a row, and since their 5-0 start have gone just 2-3. Their top two scorers are still doing their job though. Jake Cowsert and Travis Bolin combined for 48 out of the 64 points on Tuesday against Gobles.
Players of the week:
Wes Webbert, Sauguatuck
Saugatuck went 1-1 on the week with a tough home loss to Fennville, but Webbert still stood tall in both games. He scored 24 points in each contest. Webbert is second on the team in scoring,getting over 15 ppg.
Pete Alfaro, Fennville
Alfaro stepped up in a big way last week to lead Fennville to a 2-0 record. On Tuesday he scored 17 points in a road win at Hartford and came back to drop 25 points to lead the Blackhawks to an upset win over Saugatuck. He had help in that Fennville game as teammate Aaron Overheiser scored 23.
Big Games This Week:
Tuesday – Lawton @ Fennville. Fennville is playing well winners of five of their last six and coming off their upset win over Saugatuck. It will be a tough game for Lawton, but don’tdiscount the Blue Devils who have won three out of their last five.
Wednesday – Bangor @ Gobles. Well, they will try once again to play this game. It was rescheduled to last Wednesday and thencalled off again. Still, it’s a key game as these two divisional opponents are yet to face each other this season.
Friday – Gobles @ Bloomingdale. The two rivals will do battle again on Friday. If it’s anything like the first match-up it should be a good one. Gobles held off Bloomingdale winning 51-48 on January 11. Also don’t forget about the fact that Gobles will be playing their third game in five days.
Climax Scotts came up big on Friday night beating Kalamazoo Phoenix 72-57. It is a very good win for the Panthers who were desperate for a good opponent. Their previous three opponents had combined to score 50 points (yes that’s 21 from Litchfield, 12 from Waldron and 17 fromTekonsha). The top two did what they do with Aaron Cook and Malachi Satterlee combining for 48 points. On the season those two are combining to score over 34 points. The rest of theteam isn’t doing a lot of scoring, but then again they don’t need to. If they can get 15-20 points from the rest of the team, they will be just fine on most nights.