We are entering the final week of the regular season with most teams only having one or two games left. There is nothing left to decide in any of the area conference races, so it is all about District tune up time.
As we prepare for this final week let me take you back to what happened last week:
Battle Creek Central locked up the East as we all figured they would do. It didn’t come easy on Tuesday as Loy Norrix gave them a great game with a 59-58 final. Bishop Robinson was back to full strength this time, but BCC still found a way to slow him down. Slowing him down means holding him to less than 20 and they held him to 19. BCC has won 11 straight games and it will be a great tune up week for districts with two tough games. They head to Lansing Sexton on Tuesday and then head to Benton Harbor on Thursday.
Portage Northern beat Portage Central. I guess you could appropriately use that phrase of “If we lose every game but still beat (insert your rival’s name) it still makes for a good season”. They haven’t lost every game, but Northern now has three wins with one over their rivals. Does that make for a good season? I don’t know about that, but I suppose it does make a grim season a little brighter. I will give them some love because they did finish against Central this time, and they played two very good games against the Mustangs. That program still has a long way to go though.
Stars of the week:
Odell Miller, Gull Lake
Gull Lake just about made it two wins in a week against both Kalamazoo Schools. Miller scored 14 points on Tuesday as the Blue Devils routed Kalamazoo Central 77-46. Gull Lake’s big man came back on Friday and scored 23 points in their 66-62 loss to Loy Norrix. Miller, a Junior, played a lot as a sophomore and now as a Junior has been the second leading scorer for Gull Lake averaging just under 12 ppg.
Devin Daniels, Lakeview
I’m hesitant to call him a future star of the conference because it appears as though he already is. The Freshman stole the show on Senior night on Friday night leading Lakeview to a win over Marshall. He scored 26 points in the Spartans’ lone game this week. He is now averaging over 17 ppg this season.
Big Games This Week:
Tuesday – Battle Creek Central @ Lansing Sexton. BCC has won 11 in a row and now will face one of the top teams in the state. This one could turn into a great game. Sexton comes into the week fresh off wins over Eastern and Everett last week.
Thursday – Lansing Sexton @ Loy Norrix. Sexton is taking a short trip around the SMAC this week. This will be a great tune up for districts for both teams.
Thursday – Battle Creek Central @ Benton Harbor. It’s a busy final week of travel for the Bearcats as they take their show to the lakeshore for the final game of the season. BCC has won 11 in a row going into the week and Benton Harbor has won five in a row and seven out of their last eight.
In the big rivalry game Plainwell gave everything they had and they just about pulled off the shocker against Otsego. The Bulldogs got a put back at the buzzer to get the win. It still leads to further questions for Otsego though. How good is this team really? I still say they have as much talent as anyone in the area, but also love to play down to their opponents. They seem like the classic team that could go on a long run in the playoffs, or could get upset in the first round. By the way, they play Plainwell in the first round.
Every time you think you’ve seen it all from Dowagiac they do something amazing again. They beat Paw Paw 106-80 this week. If you aren’t keeping score at home, that makes it twice this season the Chieftains have gone over 100 points and they have scored 90 or more six times. They are now averaging over 80 ppg. Of the teams in this general Kalamazoo area, the next highest scoring team is Mendon who is scoring 67.1 ppg. Oh and looking ahead they will play the best defensive team in southwest Michigan in the first game of districts as they lock up with Stevensville-Lakeshore.
Players of the week:
DeMarcus Leake, Paw Paw
Paw Paw played three games this week, and Leake had another huge week. The Redskins lost 106-80 on Tuesday to Dowagiac but Leake scored 23 points in the loss. On Friday against Allegan he went 20-20, scoring 25 points and ripping down 21 rebounds. He came back on Saturday to score 17 points and grab 12 rebounds. Leake getting double-doubles has become a regularity lately, as he seems to do that every game. For the season he is scoring just over 13 ppg.
Josh Kozinski, Edwardsburg
There are certain nights when you have the best player on the court, both teams know it, and it’s best to just sit back and let him do his thing. For Edwardsburg that was Saturday night, as Josh Kozinski dropped 36 on a tired Allegan squad. The Central Michigan commit hit seven three pointers in the game. That game went along with a 21 point effort on Friday night against South Haven. He sits second in the league in scoring at over 22 ppg, behind only Dontel Highsmith.
Big Games This Week:
Tuesday – Otsego @ Hastings. Out of conference game for Otsego but a good challenge for the Bulldogs as they prepare for Districts.
Thursday – Dowagiac @ Otsego. These two will match-up again just a few weeks after their classic game that saw Dowagiac win 65-64. This time it will be in the first Wolverine Conference Championship game.
Well it was rivalry week and of the local rivalry games one was good and one was extremely ugly. Kalamazoo Christian beat Hackett 61-51 in a game that was tied at halftime and saw the Comets take control in the second half to earn the season sweep. On the other hand the Schoolcraft-Constantine game was rather forgettable. Schoolcraft won 64-12. Now, I in no way expected Constantine to win this game, and Schoolcraft winning by 40 really would not have come as a surprise. But 12? Not only 12, but the Falcons didn’t even score in the final quarter. You would at least think you could toss in a couple buckets, or at least a free throw when the benches had cleared. Back on January 8 Constantine beat Parchment to go to 3-3 on the season. Since then they have gone 1-11.
In some other notes Maple Valley won their rivalry game with Olivet. The Eagles lost their leading scorer Quinten Harris in late January and since then they have gone just 1-6. Delton also collected a win as they won the road over Pennfield. Congrats to Delton head coach Steve Miknis who was able to get a win with his Panthers on his first trip back to Pennfield. Pennfield had won three in a row and looked like they were gaining some momentum going into the post season, but losing at home to a last place team is not going to help that momentum a lot.
Players of the Week:
Luke Ryskamp, Schoolcraft
Another 2-0 week for Schoolcraft and once again Ryskamp was doing what he does. In Tuesday’s win over Delton where they Eagles escaped with a seven point win, they needed Ryskamp to be big and he was as he scored 21 points and pulled down 13 rebounds. On Friday he came back in a rivalry game against Constantine to score 19 points and grab seven rebounds.
Zach Leinaar, Delton
It hasn’t been a very good season for Delton but one of the bright spots has been the play of Zach Leinaar. On Tuesday Leinaar just about helped the Panthers to an upset win over Schoolcraft when he scored 16 points. On Friday he came back to score 23 points to lead Delton to a road win over Pennfield. On the season he is scoring close to 13 ppg.
This Week’s Big Game:
Tuesday – Galesburg-Augusta @ Bloomingdale. This is an interesting out of conference battle. GA should win this game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bloomingdale gives them some trouble.
Thursday – Galesburg-Augusta @ Kalamazoo Christian. In their first match-up these two went to overtime and the Comets prevailed 50-45. KC has now won seven in a row going into this final week.
The SAC had their crossover games on Friday and that saw Saugatuck win the conference with a 72-62 win over Decatur. It continues the good steady play for the Indians this season who are certainly a deserving champion. They have won 13 games this season, and have been led by a very good duo of Michael Winowiecki and Wes Webbert who combine for over 35 ppg. Decatur on the other hand continues their rough end of season play. They have now lost four out of their last five. I keep thinking that they are talented enough to pull it together, but it has been going on for a few weeks now. Once that snowball gets rolling in the wrong direction it is hard to stop it.
Player of the week:
Michael Winowiecki, Saugatuck
Winowiecki had quite a week in leading the Indians to two wins and a conference championship. On Wednesday he scored 33 points against Martin. If you think that maybe he was just getting his points against one of the worst teams in the league well he did the same thing in the conference championship game as he also dropped 33 points against Decatur. The sharp shooter, Winowiecki, has been the top scorer in the SAC this season and is the only player in the conference averaging over 20 ppg.
Big Game This Week:
Thursday – Saugatuck @ Decatur. Yes these two get to match up again, but not in a championship setting. They had not yet played this season before last week’s crossover game. It should be another great game.
St. Joe Valley/Cliamx-Scotts
Mendon upset Climax Scotts on Tuesday in a match-up of top ten teams. It was a classic that saw the Hornets prevail 51-50. These two are, at this time, two of the best small school athletic programs in southwest Michigan. This goes for most sports too. In a time when many of these small schools are not succeeding, and constantly battling having enough players, these two are having a lot of success and don’t have those troubles at all. It makes you wonder why these two won’t play each other more often. You have the old St. Joe Valley which is currently composed of four teams (Mendon, White Pigeon, Bronson and Centreville). All of these schools are relatively close to Climax. I will also toss in schools like Colon and Athens, because they are also close, and still have 11 man football. Why aren’t these teams in a conference together? With gas being $4.00 a gallon, why should a small school like CS drive over an hour to games down by the Michigan-Ohio boarder when they can drive right down the street?
Climax Scotts got out of the SJV for obvious reasons. They couldn’t beat Mendon, Schoolcraft and Constantine, and that led to them not being very competitive with anyone else either. They were losing numbers so much that they had to stop their football program. They went to a conference where they could be successful. What has happened is that they have dominated that conference since going there, and they now have very successful programs in most every sport. On most every night, there is literally no chance of them losing. It’s not like Varsity vs. the JV. It’s more like Varsity vs. the Freshmen.
If you played the hypothetical game of CS going back to the SJV, there is no reason to believe they couldn’t compete with every team in there. The only team they would have trouble with, would be Mendon on the football field. Still, it would challenge your team and your program to take your program to the next level which doesn’t happen if they continue to beat teams like Burr Oak and Tekonsha by 50 in every sport.
In terms of these teams on the basketball court, it was good to see both get a nice challenge. What’s better is that both of these teams will get to face each other in the district. They will meet in the first round. Yes the best two teams in the district, and two state ranked teams will face each other in the first round. I think seeding a basketball bracket is a discussion for another time.