By, Nick Vlietstra
We are half way through the season (or at least close to it). Most teams have a good idea of whatthey have at this point. Now the job ofthese teams is to either keep it going or obviously turn it around. We also start to see teams going through theirconference schedules a second time which is sure to make for some goodrematches. Let’s take a look back atwhat happened last week.
Another week and another good showing for StevensvilleLakeshore, who picked up two key division wins over Niles and St. Joseph. Their 47-44 win St. Joe was big, as they beata division rival, one who is probably your closest divisional competitor atthis point, and doing it on the road. Their defense continues to be their calling card as they held bothopponents this week to 47 points or less and continue to hold opposing teams toless than 40 points per game. St. Joewas one of the better offensive teams in the league and the argument can bemade that they are the best shooting team, but they were held to just 44 pointsand hit only two three pointers in the game.
Locally, it was a good week for Kalamazoo Central who pickedup two division wins with both wins coming on the road. Central now sits right in the middle of theWest Division with a 4-3 record. Theystill are scoring plenty of points, but they continue to allow a lot of pointsas well. The Giants have given up lessthan 60 just three times in nine games.
On the other side of town Loy Norrix hit a stumbling blockthis past week falling on Tuesday to Lakeview in overtime. It was an interesting score to see, andperhaps Lakeview is better than what people want to give them credit for. Still, if you are one of the top teams in thedivision, beating Lakeview at home is a game you need to win. The Spartans did have a very good weekpulling off the upset of the Knights and then upsetting Marshall on the road onFriday. They now sit behind only LoyNorrix and Battle Creek Central in the East Division standings.
Portage Central survived their rivalry game with PortageNorthern, but needed plenty of help to get there. Like any rivalry game it got a little heatedand with Central down five with two minutes to go a technical foul to Northernallowed Central the chance to cut the lead to one. Central went on to win the game inovertime. The win moves the Mustangs’ backinto a tie for second place in the West along with St. Joseph.
Stars of the week:
Bishop Robinson, Loy Norrix
Another week and another Robsinson sighting here. He exploded for 30 points and 12 rebounds inTuesday’s overtime loss to Lakeview and then came back with 20 points and 10rebounds against Gull Lake. Robinsoncontinues to lead the SMAC in scoring getting 24.9 ppg.
Jamaal Conger, Kalamazoo Central
As the season has gone along, Conger has solidified himselfas one of the best pure scorers in the SMAC. He led the Maroon Giants to two wins this past week. On Tuesday he scored 25 points in their winover Portage Northern and came back to score 24 in beating Niles. For the season the Senior is getting over 22ppg.
Donnie Ernsberger, Lakeview
Ernsberger led Lakeview to two upset wins on the road thispast week. First, against Loy Norrix hescored 19 points and hit the game winning three in overtime, and then he cameback to score 16 and grab seven rebounds in a win over Marshall. He is the leading scorer for the suddenly hotSpartans who sit in third place in the SMAC East.
Big Games This Week:
Tuesday – Portage Central @ Battle Creek Lakeview. Lakeview is hot and coming off two upset winsover Loy Norrix and Marshall last week. They will face a crossover game with Portage Central who is now 7-3.
Friday - Kalamazoo Central @ Portage Central. This is a rematch of a game on December 7that saw the Giants come from over 20 down in the fourth quarter to steal a winin overtime. This game has plenty on theline as K-Central sits one game behind the Mustangs in the standings.
Saturday – Loy Norrix vs. Kalamazoo Central (@ UniversityArena). This big rivalry game is playedonly once a year now. This one has achance to be another good game with two of the top players in the SMAC on thecourt with Bishop Robinson for Loy Norrix and Jamaal Conger for K-Central.
A lot of big scorers did a lot of big things this week. We start in Dowagiac where on Friday nightDontel Highsmith went off again this time striking for 49 points, 11 reboundsand six assists against Berrien Springs. It also came on the same night that Berrien Springs’ Jhon Williamsscored 33. Highsmith hit eight three pointers, which is adisaster for opposing teams. He is a guythat I always say you need to play like LeBron, and attempt to prevent him fromdriving, and then pray he doesn’t hit his jump shots. When he is hitting his shots, you just needto tip your cap and say it’s probably not our night. As a team the Chieftains put up 101 pointsand hit an astonishing 19 three pointers. It is the third time this season that Dowagiac has scored 90 or morepoints. It does lead me to some questionmarks. I understand that it is a funthing for kids to want to score over 100 points, and I can even understandthere could be an urge to get to that mark. At the same time, why does a high school team need to pour it on, andscore over 25 points in a final quarter of a game that was already well inhand? They did end up winning the gameby 27.
Otsego needed a big second half to get past their rivalsfrom Plainwell. They won by 13 but theytrailed big early on, and still trailed at the half. Otsego is now 8-1 which is impressive, butperhaps not as impressive as some would expect. I don’t want to read too much into it, because scoreboard comparing doesno one much help, but it can be interesting to see how they allow some lesserteams the ability to stick in the game. Not blowing out bad teams by enough doesn’t always say that much, butthey could be playing dangerously if they do allow some teams to stick aroundin games.
Players of the week:
Dontel Highsmith, Dowagiac
There was no keeping this guy out of the players of the weekthis week following his 49 point performance on Friday against BerrienSprings. That goes along with his 23point performance against Plainwell on Tuesday. Highsmith continues to lead the Wolverine in scoring now averaging 28ppg.
Jhon Williams, Berrien Springs
Berrien Springs may have gone 0-2 this week, but it wasn’tbecause of Jhon Williams who averaged 29 ppg in the two games and did itagainst two of the top teams in the conference. He started the week scoring 25 points in a 12 point loss to Otsego, andthen came back to score 33 in a loss to Dowagiac. Williams is the Shamrocks’ leading scorergetting over 17 ppg.
Brian Harris, South Haven
It was a big week for South Haven and their top scorer,Brian Harris, showed up in a big way scoring 24 ppg in their two games. On Tuesday he scored 25 points in a winagainst Vicksburg and then came back to score 23 points in a losing effort onthe road at Edwardsburg. Harris is nowscoring just a touch under 18 ppg for the Rams.
Big Games This Week:
Tuesday – Dowagiac @ Otsego. A possible championship matchup where there are two combined lossesbetween these two right now. It is alsoa matchup of the top player in the conference in Dowagiac’s Dontel Highsmithand the young up and coming talent of the Bulldogs.
Friday – Paw Paw @ Vicksburg. This is a rematch of a game early in theseason when Vicksburg won 53-50. Also amatchup of teams who halfway through probably feel they could be better thanwhat they have been. A win here couldpropel either of these teams to a good second half.
Another week and once again Schoolcraft flexed theirmuscles. They have separated themselvesas the top team in the conference at this point, and after two wins this weekthey are 8-0 in the conference. Itwasn’t a tremendously tough week as they faced two of the lesser teams in theconference in Delton and Constantine. They are demolishing everyone in their way in the conference thisyear. Within the conference they arescoring over 66 ppg and giving up only 38. Their closest game within the KVA so far has been a 14 point difference.
The big rivalry game between Kalamazoo Christian and Hackettproved to be an exciting one again with Christian pulling out a seven pointvictory. Hackett had won their last twoincluding winning at Olivet on Tuesday, and Hackett has turned their home courtinto one of the tougher places to play in the KVA. That still wasn’t enough as the Comets turnedback their longtime rivals. The Cometsdon’t have nearly as much depth as they once had, but they are getting a lotout of their top players. NateNiewoonder (13.5 ppg) and Brennan Heidema (13.6) are both leading the offense,while their big man Dylan Gooch is becoming more and more productive as theseason goes on, now scoring close to 9 ppg.
Players of the Week:
Quinten Harris, Olivet
The top big man in the conference may have had his best weekof the season last week. He averaged 20ppg and pulled down 19 rpg. AgainstHackett he scored 17 points and had 17 rebounds. He then topped that performance against theirrivals Maple Valley scoring 23 points and grabbing 21 rebounds. Harris is committed to play his college ballat Michigan Tech.
Luke Ryskamp, Schoolcraft
The KVA’s top scorer was at it again this week averaging 25ppg in two wins. The Grand Valley commitstarted the week getting 27 points on the road at Delton and then scored 23points at home against their rivals from Constantine. He continues to lead the KVA in scoringgetting 23.3 ppg.
This Week’s Big Games:
Tuesday – Kalamazoo Christian @ Galesburg-Augusta. GA is hot as they are 6-3 and winners of fivein a row. They tangle with K-Christianfor a chance to move up to second place in the conference.
Friday – Schoolcraft @ Kalamazoo Christian. Christian has given the Eagles one of theirclosest games of the KVA season (that means they lost by 15). Still going into the Comets’ home gym is noteasy.
Decatur finally fell from the ranks of the unbeaten as theyfell 62-58 on the road at Fennville on Tuesday. They still bounced back to win at Hartford on Friday. The Raiders were the last remainingundefeated team in the SAC, but I still feel they will be fine goingforward. They have their big three scorersin Tim and Tom Cevern and T.J. Stambek who are leading the top scoring offensein the SAC getting over 64 ppg. Theyalso have one of the top defenses in the conference that is holding opponentsto just 49 ppg.
Gobles came up with a huge road win on Friday as theyknocked off Saugatuck. They were able toavenge an overtime loss to the Indians they suffered early in the season. The two games were very differentthough. On December 7 the final was73-68, and Friday it went from a shootout to a defensive battle with the Tigerswinning 49-44. That ties up those twoteams atop the North division, while Fennville is still lurking just a gamebehind those two.
Players of the week:
Tim Cerven, Decatur
Decatur suffered their first loss of the season this week,but Tim Cerven was still scoring the ball at a very high rate. He averaged 22.5 ppg in the Raiders’ twogames this week scoring 21 points in a loss at Fennville and then getting 24points against Hartford. He is one ofthree for Decatur averaging double digits and he leads the way at 17.5 ppg.
Luke Traver, Hartford
Traver had a very nice week for the Indians averaging 21 ppgas Hartford went 1-1. He began the weekscoring 26 points in leading his team to a win on the road at Bangor. He then came back to score 15 points in ahome loss to Decatur. Traver is theleading scorer for Hartford getting 14.4 ppg.
Big Games This Week:
Tuesday – Bangor @ Gobles. Gobles is in a tie for first place and they face a Bangor team who islooking to turn their season around.
Friday – Gobles @ Fennville. It’s a tough week for Gobles as they will finish it off with a game withFennville who goes into the week one game behind the Tigers and Saugatuck. Gobles won the first matchup 50-46.
Another week and two more wins for both Climax Scotts andMendon. Mendon claimed two road winsover Niles Brandywine and Athens. Theyare now 9-1 and are outscoring opponents by close to 18 per game. Down the street Climax Scotts won two gamesrather easily, beating Pittsford and Battle Creek St. Phil and improve to 10-0on the season.
Player of the week:
Aaron Cook, Climax-Scotts
Another big week for Cook as he averaged 22 ppg and grabbed8 rpg in two wins. Cook scored 20 pointand had eight rebounds against Pittsford and then came back to get 24 pointsand eight rebounds against St. Phil. Cook continues to be the top scorer for the undefeated Panthers at 19.5ppg.