Holiday Break Recap
By, Nick Vlietstra
The Holiday break has come and gone, students are back in school, practice times are back to normal, and most teams are going back to two games a week. For some teams it will be a time to unthaw considering they haven’t played in over two weeks. But while some were just practicing in cold gyms, others were doing their work in front of crowds in holiday tournaments and showcases.
I don’t know if there are many coaches who truly like the holiday break for their teams. It interrupts games and practices. It is hard to get guys to come to practice and play hard, whether or not you have games and that is if your whole team shows up with some being gone on vacation. If that is the case, you need to rely on players from your other teams to fill out a full team, or maybe even get alumni to come back and practice. Practice times are different for the players and coaches. The kids are still kids and most nights will be found staying up until midnight or later playing video games, watching movies or doing whatever else they can do at that time considering they don’t have a big reason to go to bed. With all these factors added in, it is understandable why coaches don’t care for the break. Some teams did use it to their advantage. Here is a look back at what happened over the last two weeks.
The Kalamazoo Schools both played over the break with Loy Norrix in a tournament, and Kalamazoo Central in a one night showcase against Lansing Eastern. I’ll start with Norrix who looked great one night against a lesser Cassopolis squad and not so much against U-D Jesuit the next night. Jesuit dealt the Knights their first loss of the season and did it with two players accounting for over 60% of their points (one getting 29 and another getting 25). It’s hard to say what happened because I’ve never seen U-D before, and I have no idea how good those guys usually are. I can say that in that game Norrix was hurt in the first half when Bishop Robinson got into foul trouble. It’s clear that he is their leader and they are a different team without him on the court, but there’s nothing really wrong with that because he is an outstanding player. I continue to have people ask how good he really is. I continue to answer that he can certainly do things on the basketball court that most high schoolers can’t do. He can attack the rim, has an outstanding motor and is relentless on the boards. Saying that, I don’t know how well a player doing that at 6’2” translates to the next level, and I think that is the same thing a lot of college coaches are looking at.
Moving across town to Kalamazoo Central, they had one great win over Lansing Eastern over the break and one loss to Stevensville-Lakeshore. They have a lot of young talent that is still a work in progress right now, but in a few years will be very good. Ramsey Nichols has them playing very good and aggressive man-to-man defense. They too have a player that makes their team go to a different level and that is Jamaal Conger. He was in foul trouble in the first half against Eastern, but when he came back in the second half the team looked totally different. When he is in, the rest of the young talent can be in supporting roles. He totally took over that game in the second half. He wanted the ball every position and showed off all the talent he has. He was shooting, driving, and was clearly the best player on the floor that night going for 34 in the game. The interesting thing with the Giants is how different they are playing home and away. They are 2-1 at home and 1-2 on the road but there is about a 20 point difference home and away on both their offense and defense. At home they are scoring and giving up 73 ppg (which does include an 89-87 game with Portage Central) while on the road they are scoring 51 ppg and giving up 55 ppg. This was seen again on Friday when they fell on the road to Stevensville-Lakeshore 62-43.
Elsewhere in the conference Battle Creek Central continues their hot play as they sit at 5-1 overall. They went 2-0 over the break with wins over Grand Rapids Union (57-49) and Lansing Everett (65-57). Marshall also went 2-0 beating Olivet up at Michigan State and beat Harper Creek on Friday and is now 6-1. Sturgis also had a nice break too going 3-0. They won their holiday tournament with wins over Kalamazoo Christian and Portage Northern, and then went on to claim a Friday night win over Gull Lake. After starting 1-4 they have now run their record even at 4-4.
Stars of the week:
Jamaal Conger, Kalamazoo Central
It was a nice two games over the break for Conger who scored 34 against Lansing Eastern and 18 against Stevensville-Lakeshore. The Giants’ Senior guard is their leading scorer averaging 20 ppg.
Bishop Robinson, Loy Norrix
In their holiday tournament Robinson averaged 24.5 ppg. He scored 24 points in a win over Cassopolis and 25 in their loss to U-D Jesuit. This is just a continued great string of play this season as Robinson is averaging 26.5 ppg.
Alex Brown, Niles
It hasn’t been a great season so far for Niles with only a 1-5 record, and they fell in their only game over the break to Mishawaka (IN) 80-78 in OT. In the losing effort Brown had a great effort pouring in 31 points including knocking down seven three pointers. Brown has been their leading scorer this season getting over 15 ppg.
This Week’s Big Games
Tuesday - Gull Lake @ Portage Central. Could these two be going in different directions? Portage Central is 4-2 and in second place in the West while Gull Lake sits at just 3-3 and tied for last in the East Division. The Mustangs will need to slow down Gull Lake’s Dean Kolstad who is scoring over 20 ppg.
Tuesday – Sturgis @ Loy Norrix. It is already the second meeting this season between these two. Loy Norrix won the first meeting 60-53 down in Sturgis. The Trojans come in winners of three in a row and in need of a big division win.
Friday – Stevensville-Lakeshore @ Portage Central. How good are the Mustangs? It will be a tough week and we will learn more about them this week especially with another tough division showdown on Friday with the undefeated Lancers.
Friday – Marshall @ Loy Norrix. Loy Norrix sits in first place right now and faces a really big week with Sturgis and then Marshall who is currently 6-1. But if you read on you’ll realize their week doesn’t slow down there.
Saturday – Grand Rapids Christian vs. Loy Norrix (3:00 @ Davenport University). No rest for the Knights who face three big games in the week. GR Christian is just 2-4 right now, but does have one of the top players in the state in Drake Harris
It was a very quiet break for the Wolverine. A few teams played in some holiday tournaments, but most stayed home. Dowagiac went 1-1 in their tournament in Benton Harbor. They were dealt their first loss of the season to Muskegon Heights 82-76 and came back to beat Bridgeman the next night 73-64. Comstock also went 1-1 in the White Pigeon Tournament which included possibly the most entertaining game over the break, falling in the championship game to Gobles 94-92 in triple overtime. Plainwell went up against very good competition in Zeeland and came away 0-2. They fell to host Zeeland East the first night and then fell to Jenison the next night.
Players of the week:
Dontel Highsmith, Dowagiac
Highsmith was had a great two game stretch in the Holiday Tournament in Benton Harbor. On the opening night he dropped 38 in a loss to Muskegon Heights and then came back with 20 against Bridgeman the next night. He had some help against Bridgeman as running mate D.J. Hunt tossed in 25 points.
Tanner Eubank, Paw Paw
Paw Paw played only one game over break and that was a 56-37 win over Lawton on Friday. In that game Eubank went for 24 points and pulled down nine rebounds. The Sophomore is the Redskins’ leading scorer this season at just over 12 ppg.
This Week’s Big Games:
Friday – Paw Paw @ Otsego. It has not gone quite as well as expected for Paw Paw so far as they sit at just 3-3, but they do sit just one game behind the Bulldogs in the East standings.
Friday – Vicksburg @ Allegan. Vicksburg has played a very tough schedule so far and sit at 3-3. Allegan is 2-3 but that is two more wins than they had last year, and Allegan always seems to play teams tough at home.
Another week and Maple Valley continues to lead the conference. They played only one game over the break and that was a 66-58 overtime win over Kalamazoo Christian. In that game they did something that they have not done a lot of in recent years and even this year. They hit a lot of three pointers, knocking down 10 in the game against the Comets. It still seems strange to say, but the Lions are still undefeated at 6-0.
Schoolcraft went 1-1 over break. They traveled to the East side of the state and played at Detroit Country Day against Pontiac where they fell pretty hard 90-62. They came back on Friday to collect a 67-53 win at Pennfield. The Eagles are 4-2 and went 0-2 in their only two non-conference games, but I would still put them as the favorite to win the KVA.
Players of the Week:
Kendal Griffen, Parchment
Parchment collected their first win of the season on Friday against Delton and it was in large part to Griffen who scored 27 points. As a Junior, Griffen is showing himself to be the Panthers’ top scoring threat scoring over 17 ppg.
Micah Bromley, Maple Valley
Bromley had a great night on Friday against Kalamazoo Christian scoring 24 points. He hit four three pointers in the game and scored six out of his team’s nine points in overtime. Bromley is one of two players scoring close to 14 ppg for the undefeated Lions this season.
This Week’s Big Games:
Tuesday – Olivet @ Schoolcraft. Two of the top teams in the KVA square off. Olivet is 3-2 but they are 3-1 in conference and sit just a game behind Schoolcraft and Maple Valley for first place.
Friday – Maple Valley @ Schoolcraft. Can you say battle for first place? The Lions and Eagles are both 4-0 in conference and could have a good match-up Friday. But, no matter who you are winning down in Schoolcraft is no easy task.
Decatur’s great play continued over the break as they went 2-0 in the Centreville Tournament. They beat the host 71-50 on the opening night and then beat Eau Claire in the championship game 57-54. It continues to be the usual suspects as the Cevern brothers are doing the majority of the scoring combining for over 35 ppg. Good things come in threes though and the one that you can’t fall asleep on is T.J. Stambek who is pitching in with over 12 ppg. The three of them make up 70% of the offense for the Raiders. It was also a good break for Gobles who won the White Pigeon tournament with wins over White Pigeon and Comstock. They have won their last three in a row and now sit with a 5-3 record.
Players of the week:
Mitch Walker and Ty Rock, Gobles
These two had two great games in leading Gobles to the White Pigeon Tournament Championship. Walker averaged 18 ppg in the two games while Rock scored 19 ppg including 25 in their wild triple overtime win over Comstock. It isn’t anything new for these two who have been the top two scorers for the Tigers this season combining for over 35 ppg.
This Week’s Big Games:
Tuesday – Lawton @ Decatur. Lawton is going to have their hands full going into Decatur. The Raiders are 7-0 and boast the best offense in the SAC. Lawton is 3-3 and has been playing great defense surrendering only 48 ppg which is good for second in the conference.
Friday – Bloomingdale @ Gobles. An old neighborly battle between these two and it could be a great game. Both of these teams were expected to battle for the top spot in the Division and both are still very much in the race. Gobles comes in 5-3 and has the second best offense in the SAC, while Bloomingdale is 4-3 and has the best defense in the conference.
Friday – Watervliet @ Decatur. It’s the first match-up between these two. They were expected to be the two fighting for first place and that’s exactly where they are. Both are undefeated, and Decatur’s top offense will face another very good defense.
Friday – Saugatuck @ Bangor. Saugatuck is in first place in the North and after their season opening loss to Wyoming Lee they have won five in a row. Bangor is 3-4 but just a game behind Saugatuck for first place, and would love nothing more than to pull into first place with a win at home over the Indians.
St. Joe Valley/Cliamx-Scotts
It certainly was a surprise to see Mendon fall in the opening game of the Centreville Tournament to Eau Claire. I personally was looking forward to see what would happen in a championship match-up of two undefeated teams in Mendon and Decatur. Meanwhile, White Pigeon has begun to play better going 2-1 over the break and now has a 4-3 record. They still aren’t scoring a lot of points getting just 46 ppg.