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03-19-2020 Tri-City Area Sports

Hartford Prress Box By Jerrod Birmele

Hartford boys basketball falls to Bloomingdale in District semifinal

Last week, before high school athletics were postponed or outright cancelled, the Hartford Indian boys basketball team began their postseason push, and ready to make a run. It has been an up-and-down year for the team, who entered their “second season” with a record of 10-10, right on the .500 mark. On the docket was conference-foe Bloomingdale, who was 2-0 against the Indians this year, but both games were tight, decided by five points or less.

In their district opener against the Bloomingdale Cardinals, held at Bloomingdale on Monday, Mar. 9, the Indians came up short in a valiant effort, falling to the host Cardinals, 64-61. Without one of the top scorers in the lineup dressed for the game, the Indians had to put together a starting lineup which had not been used all season long. But, Hartford was in the game all night long, leading for a short period of time and staying within ten points for a good portion of the game. Falling behind double digits heading into the fourth quarter, the Indians found their rhythm and got the game within two at one point. With just seconds remaining and down three, Hartford had a chance to hit a half-court shot which could have tied the game, but it was wide right, and the season was over.

Hartford finishes the season with a record of 10-11 overall. Congratulations to Coach Johnson, Coach Ledesma, Coach Nelson and the Indians on a successful season, and also, a massive well-done to the senior class on their solid careers. This season’s record may not look like it was a success but, in reality, nine of their losses were by ten points or less.

Hartford athletics schedule amended to combat COVID-19

Over the last several weeks families across the world have tuned into their television sets, and heard the news about the rising fears of COVID-19, or the coronavirus. Well, those fears have leaked into our little area of Southwest Michigan, and will make for a lengthy period of non-athletic events in Hartford, with the school district following the procedures set forth by the State of Michigan in the weeks ahead.

As everyone well knows, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer last week announced all K – 12 schools will be shuttered for three weeks, which began on Monday, March 16 and will last through Sunday, April 5. Because the Hartford Public Schools had designated the week of April 6 – 10 as Spring Break, school will not resume until Monday, April 13.

In an announcement made on social media, the Hartford Athletic Department announced that no games or practices will take place during the shutdown. In fact, they went as far as saying that coaches were to have zero contact with athletes, and also announced that students would not be allowed into any of their facilities. Also, all fundraisers that were set during this time have been postponed until school opens back up.

The hope is that athletics can return on both the high school and middle school level once the school reopens after Spring Break. What this means is that this column will be taking a hit in the weeks ahead, with no results being published for baseball, softball and track. However, this column will continue as we are looking for unique ideas to keep readers excited for Hartford sports in the near future.

Readers are encouraged to stay tuned! In the meantime, as always, GO INDIANS!

Press Box Player of the Week!

By John Oliphant

Tri-City Record Press Box Player of the Week is Watervliet’s Evan Hutchins. Evan just finished his junior season on the Watervliet Panther varsity basketball team. He has made a big comeback from a broken arm he suffered near the end of the football season.

Evan started the basketball season late as he healed and waited to be cleared to play, and wasn’t able to participate in the tryouts. He made the team despite being on the sidelines and once he was ready to go he worked hard to catch up and prove himself worthy of making the team. He did just that, becoming a key player on a team full of selfless players. Evan played a big role in his favorite game this season, beating Gobles at the last second on their home court for their winter festival.

Evan finished his basketball season by scoring ten big points in the second half of a loss against a powerful Niles-Brandywine team. He has had good games, but his favorite was scoring 21 points against rival Coloma last year at JV. He noted that this year was different because of the way Coach Dan Hoff set such high standards and commanded the respect of the players.

Outside of basketball, Evan was a key player on the football team playing receiver, quarterback, and defensive back. He was named All-Conference Honorable Mention while collecting 51 tackles and scoring four touchdowns.

He’s looking forward to playing on the varsity baseball team again where he’ll catch, pitch and play outfield. Evan plans to become a welder, and hopes to do underwater welding someday.

Congratulations, Evan!

Watervliet Press Box by John Oliphant

Boys basketball finishes with a bang

Ten weeks ago on January 14, the Panther boys basketball team traveled down M-140 and was easily and decisively beaten by Niles Brandywine, 70-41. The Panthers were never really in that game and the Bobcats, unbeaten at the time, gave their starters a rest in the second quarter. To be fair, the Panthers were shorthanded and working out new schemes while playing just their seventh game under the guidance of new coach Dan Hoff. Hoff has taken them a long way since then.

FINDING A LANE… is Panther #10 Evan Hutchins against the mighty Brandywine Bobcats last Wednesday, March 11. The Watervliet Panthers coached by Dan Hoff never gave up and gave the Bobcats a run for their money in round one of District play at Bridgman. (TCR photo by Amy Loshbough)

When the district tournament brackets were released fans and parents were disappointed to see the first game scheduled against the top-seeded and now 17-3 Bobcats. On paper this one was destined to be a disappointing end to the Panthers’ solid rebuilding season. Fortunately, they don’t play these games on paper because the upstart Panthers traveled to Bridgman on Wednesday, March 11 and put a big scare on the talented and disciplined Niles Brandywine team, a team destined to win another game or two in the playoffs.

The Bobcats came out running and firing, scoring several quick baskets on breakaways and a couple slashing dunks on their way to 21 first quarter points scored by seven different players. The Panthers refused to give in and hung tough, with senior Cole Pline getting the first basket underneath and outside shots from Davis King and Brennan Bornas leading them to 16 points in the quarter.

The speedy Bobcats ran a smothering man-to-man defense and the Panthers had to make a lot of passes to get any open shots, so that’s exactly what they did. And then they played some defense.

With coach Hoff making adjustments the Panther defense finally slowed the Bobcat scoring machine and grabbed the momentum, going into the locker room at halftime down just 31-27.

The Bobcats first extended their lead in the third quarter, but the Panthers cut that lead to three points after several good defensive stops and a three-point play by Evan Hutchins, who scored seven points in the quarter on three nice mid-range shots. Dylan Lawson asserted himself with a solid defensive play that quickly slowed the Bobcat inside game.

Brandywine coach Nathan Knapp was not happy with his team for letting the Panthers back into the game and rallied them to finish strong. With the Panthers down 44-36 going into the final quarter, the momentum was shifting back to the experienced Bobcats as they wore down the young Panthers with their tough defense and deep bench.

The Panthers had opportunities to cut the lead but a few errant passes and that Bobcat defense prevented them from getting any closer and the Bobcats won the game 55-47. This was the final game of the season for both teams as the MHSAA ended the entire winter sports season the next day.

BORNAS FOR 2… #14 Brennan Bornas contributes to the cause in round one of District play for the Watervliet Panthers. Although the final outcome was not in Panther favor, they never gave up against the top seeded Brandywine Bobcats. (TCR photo by Amy Loshbough)

Sophomore Andrew Chisek played an excellent game and led all scorers with 17 points, going 6-for-6 at the foul line. Junior Davis King’s outside shot kept the Panthers in the game in the first half as he buried a trio of three-pointers, finishing with 13 points. Junior Evan Hutchins finished the game with 10 points. Sophomore Brennan Bornas finished with five points, and senior Cole Pline chipped in two points. Of note, the Panthers shot 100% from the line again, going 7-for-7.

The Panthers end their season at 7-14, but taking the No.1 seed the distance and giving them and their fans a game they surely didn’t expect made the season just a little sweeter. Seniors Cole Pline and Danaveon Gilbert combined for just two points on the evening but both of them gave their all as they played their final high school basketball game.

What’s next?

Hopefully the winter sports teams get to have their banquets to celebrate their achievements, but at this point it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Virtual banquets perhaps? Maybe fans will find out who was chosen most improved player and MVP on Facebook Live. We will miss the proud award winners getting their pictures taken with their plaques, and the players laughing and blushing with embarrassment as their coaches tell stories about them. Coaches, players and parents will miss the pot-luck buffets and fried chicken served by the boosters and the conversations about next year.

More than anything everyone feels for the seniors who had their seasons and potentially their final semester of high school abruptly cut short but the COVID-19 mandates. Sure, it’s just high school sports but the teams and games and camaraderie are important to the student-athletes and vital to their overall growth and education. As this is being written, all our students and families are safe from the virus as far as we know. Let’s hope it stays that way so they can finish their school year properly, and then maybe there will be a spring sports season.

So as fans see a senior athlete they should give them a hug. Oh, right, a high five. Nope, can’t do that either. What about an elbow-bump? Sigh, maybe just stand apart and congratulate them for their season and wish them luck for the future. This will be a year they’ll never forget, one way or another.

Coloma Press Box By Dave Vollrath

Boys basketball earns trip to the district finals, season ends without resolution

On Wednesday March 11, the Coloma Comet boys basketball team hit the floor to face South Haven, in the Division 2, district semi-finals, being played at the newly remodeled Civic Center in Holland. The winner would be given the opportunity to play Benton Harbor in the district finals, as Benton Harbor had easily dispatched Hamilton in the first game of the evening by a score of 83-60. With the Tigers coming into the district as the No. 1 seed, and the Comets the No. 2 seed, Coloma was also looking to the opportunity to get revenge from an earlier loss at Benton Harbor.

However, they would first have to defeat South Haven who came into the contest with a 10-10 record, compared to Coloma’s record of 13-8. Coloma had defeated the Rams in a game earlier this season, with that game played in the Coloma gym. But this time of year the regular season records mean very little, as every team is scrambling to stay alive, to win, and to play one more game.

EASY 2-POINTER… Coloma senior guard Kenyon Boyd goes up for an uncontested layup, as part of Coloma’s second half comeback against South Haven. Coloma won the District 2 semi final game 61-50. The Comets won their way to a district finals game, which will never be played. Coloma trailed by 12 in the second half, before making an exciting comeback. (TCR photo by Dave Vollrath)

The game started slowly as each team struggled a little to knock down a shot. The Comets did lead by as many as five in the first quarter, before the Rams caught a little fire and finished the period leading by a point, 13-12. The Comets went completely cold in the second quarter. South Haven took advantage and went into the locker room leading 23-18.

The third quarter the Rams continued their fine play and had the crowd on their side, as Coloma was still ice cold shooting the ball. They were holding Coloma to one shot per trip. With about three minutes to go in the 3rd quarter, and Coloma trailing by 11 points, 34-23, Coloma’s Drew Goodline was fouled attempting a 3-pointer. Goodline made the three ensuing free throws cutting the lead back to single digits, and from there the Comets caught fire.

The crowd on the Coloma side came back to life as Drew Goodline hit a pair of 3-pointers, Jake Ickes hit a three, and Isaiah Reinhart also hit a three. Just before the buzzer sounded Ickes got free for a layup underneath the bucket, and those two points gave Coloma the lead at 42-41, as they headed to the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter found Coloma building on their lead, and most every time the Rams hit a shot the Comets came back and hit a shot of their own. Michael Dancer led the Comets with seven points in the quarter, including one from long range. Reinhardt and Ickes each hit another 3-pointer to keep the Coloma squad comfortably ahead. The final score was 61-50, and the chance for the rematch with Benton Harbor on Friday was ahead of them, or so everyone thought.

Coloma coach Curtis McFall stated after the game that he was happy his team finally started playing like their season was on the line. With their backs to the wall, trailing by double digits, they came out knocking down their shots and tightening up on the defensive side. Coach McFall also stated that he was happy his team would get another shot at facing the No. 1 team in the state in Division 2, and the opportunity to win Coloma’s first boys district title since 2003.

In the semi-final game Drew Goodline, after a very cold start shooting the ball, finished with 17 points including three from behind the 3-point arc. Jake Ickes hit four from downtown, and finished with 14 points. Michael Dancer scored 10 points, while Isaiah Reinhardt and Shawn Dryer each finished with eight points. Kenyon Boyd and Amir Hall both came off the bench and gave Coach McFall some great energy and good minutes off the bench.

Now, having said all that, sadly this is where Coloma’s basketball season will end. The COVID-19 mandates have wiped out all of the remaining winter sports, and champions will not be crowned this season in basketball along with several other sports sanctioned by the MHSAA. Currently, there are no practices or organized gatherings allowed in any of the three seasons of sports in Michigan high schools, and will remain that way until at least April 6.

JACOBS SHAKES FREE… Coloma senior forward Brenden Jacobs shakes himself free for an easy basket, during this Coloma out of bounds play under their bucket, against Allegan. Coloma beat Allegan, in their first district game 70-52. The Division 2 district games were played at the Holland Civic Center, in Holland. (TCR photo by Dave Vollrath)

Please be sure and stay with the View from the Press Box each week, as we will continue to provide readers with the most up-to-date information regarding our local high school, and youth sports programs. Sports are a big part of life in our small communities, and an integral part of the overall growth of our students and athletes. We need to continue to support our young athletes, as this is a very tough part of life for them and one of the toughest obstacles most of them have faced in their young lives.

Coloma girls bowling team falls by 12 pins, loss in semi finals ends state run

The Coloma girls bowling team went into the state tournament at the Jax60 Bowl, in Jackson, with one goal in mind, winning back-to-back state titles. The girls roared through the qualifying and were leading by 288 pins as they went into bracket play as the No. 1 seed. The Comet ladies then bowled over Hopkins in the quarterfinals on Friday, March 6 by 88 pins. In the semi finals the girls faced Essexville Garber, and lost a heartbreaking match by only 12 pins.

The Coloma gals didn’t get the chance to finish with a state title this year, but Coach Carley Burrell is very proud of her girls in making it to the final four teams in the state. The team members competing for the Comets were Ashley Ikerd, Emily Feldten, Carissa Richmond, Morgan Hosbein, Madison McQuillan, and Eadie Needham.

On Saturday March 7, the Comets had three girls competing in the individual event. Emily Feldten, 6th place, and Morgan Hosbein, 14th place, moved on to the bracket play.

Emily won her match in the round of 16 while Morgan was eliminated with a loss, by only nine pins. Emily then won her quarterfinal match, which placed her in the final four. She went on to lose her semi final match to a bowler from Caro, by 24 pins. Making it to the semi finals was a great accomplishment for Miss Feldten, and another feather in the cap of the Coloma Ladies Bowling program, and Coach Burrell.

Carissa Richmond, the third individual bowler, finished in 21st place in the qualifying and missed the round of 16.

For the Coloma boys Nick Santarlas qualified for the individual finals, and finished in 46th place during qualifying. Nick had a very fine season for the Comets, and the team was ranked in the top 5 in the state in Division 3. Coach Sharon Ball is just as proud of her boys team and the great season they had.


As stated earlier, the winter sports season in Michigan is over along with classes. No activity will take place until at least April 6. The situation will be assessed as needed, and there is a chance that no spring sports will take place this year. Everyone is hoping this virus will run its course quickly, and we can get back on the tracks and the ball fields and golf courses. We are very much praying that when the spring sports seasons conclude in May and June, we can crown our sports champions the same way we do every year, by them earning it with competition on the field.


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