03-29-2018 Tri-City Area Sports

DOWNTOWN BROWN… Benton Harbor’s Dennie Brown drove to the basket Saturday in the Class B state championship finals. Brown scored six points in the Benton Harbor victory. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

Area athletes earn All-Conference honors for basketball

The Tri-City area is chock full of talented basketball athletes. That opinion was cemented recently when the Southwestern Athletic Conference and Southwest 10 Conference announced All-Conference honorees.

In the SAC, Coloma basketball standouts Zach Goodline, Robbie Schroeder, Levi Wilkens, Kayla Yore, and Morgan Wagner all received First Team All-Conference nods.

Dan Cluster and Ariana Rowe, hard court stars from their Watervliet Panther squads, received First Team All-Conference honors from the SAC.

In the SW10, Hartford’s William Martinez and AJ Jackson led the way for the Indians. The two received First Team All-Conference awards.

In the SAC, Honorable Mention accolades went to Coloma’s Michael Dancer, Phillip Caldwell, and Hannah Mathis.

Watervliet’s Sheldon Tobar, Garrett Matthews, Madalyn Hutchins, Jaelyn Pitre, and Zoe Smith each picked up an SAC Honorable Mention award as well.

The SW10 doled out Honorable Mention awards to Hartford’s Jessica Cortes, Mikenzie Chambers, and Trey Ackerman.

Congratulations to the hustlers of the hard court on their awards!

Benton Harbor brings home First Class B Basketball State Championship since 1965

It’s safe to say there was no better game of basketball to watch Saturday night and, in the midst of March Madness, that’s saying something.

The Tigers traveled the road to the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University with a 26-1 record, including two wins over Coloma, who only suffered three losses the entire season.

With their walk through districts, regionals, and semi-finals, Benton Harbor earned a berth in the state championship game against a strong Grand Rapids Catholic Central team.

WAGNER WINS FIRST TEAM RECOGNITION… For her effort on the hardcourt this season, Coloma’s Morgan Wagner, a senior forward on the squad was named First Team All-Conference in the SAC.

In the first quarter, Benton Harbor looked sharp. The squad jumped out to an early lead and controlled the momentum of the quarter, despite the game’s only dunk being scored by Grand Rapids which lit up the Catholic Central fan section.

At the close of the first period, Benton Harbor led 15-10.

Things turned a bit ugly for the Tigers in the second period. The team struggled to land baskets and Grand Rapids went on a tear. The winds changed on the court, Benton Harbor lost some of their spark, and Grand Rapids led 27-26 at the half.

Third quarter action swung back into Benton Harbor’s favor, as the Tigers scored 19 points.  Devan Nichols, a senior guard, hit back-to-back 3-pointers in one of the quarter’s most exciting moments.

Benton Harbor reclaimed the lead, 45-38 after 24 minutes of play.

ALL-CONFERENCE HONORS FOR GOODLINE… Coloma junior guard Zach Goodline scored a First Team All-Conference nod for his work on the basketball court this season.

The fourth quarter rolled around and fans in the stands certainly got their money’s worth. The Tigers were limited to 10 points while Grand Rapids scored 17.

It was Catholic Central’s 3-pointers that swung the game in their favor.  But, Benton Harbor’s Shawn Hopkins had a little magic up his sleeve.

WAY TO GO, ROWE! Watervliet senior forward and captain of the varsity basketball squad, Ariana Rowe, was recently named First Team in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

With Benton Harbor trailing by two, Hopkins drove the lane, and let the ball roll off his fingertips and right into the bucket to tie the game at 55 apiece as time expired. Bring on overtime, baby!

The four-minute OT period was everything a basketball fan could ask for. Benton Harbor trailed the entire period, except when it counted.

The Tigers played catch up much of the period, and the dust didn’t settle until the buzzer.

Benton Harbor trailed 64-62 when they got the ball on what would be their final possession. The Tigers brought the ball down the court with junior power forward Carlos Johnson holding the ball. He shovel passed the ball to teammate Elijah Baxter who passed it back. Near the top of the key, Johnson stepped back and drained a 3-pointer to give the Tigers the 65-64 lead.

With seconds left on the clock, Grand Rapids moved the ball down the court and lifted a shot into the air.  The orange globe hit the backboard and rim and a host of hoopsters took to the air. With elbows and hands flailing for the rebound, time expired. Benton Harbor had earned their first state basketball championship title since 1965.

Johnson led the Tigers with 24 points and 11 rebounds.  TJ Jones scored 10 points and grabbed three rebounds. Nichols and Hopkins chipped in nine points each with Hopkins nabbing 11 rebounds.

WILKENS WINS FIRST TEAM HONORS… Coloma’s Levi Wilkens, a senior guard, was recognized with First Team All-Conference honors.

Baxter added seven points and Dennie Brown scored six points.

Now that the details are out of the way, let’s get to the nitty gritty of the game.

It was intense. It was gut-wrenching. It was captivating. It was a collective gasp of breath by both teams. It was a test of young men’s talent and sportsmanship. And, at times, it wasn’t pretty.

Benton Harbor’s defense wasn’t sublime. The crew had four steals and three blocks during the game. They mustered only 10 offensive rebounds. The Tigers made eight of 25 3-pointers (32%).

This was a game that, if you were a fan, you remained nervous throughout it. There was never a clear indicator of who would win. Once the game trickled into overtime, the anticipation ramped up substantially and the air in the stadium was taut.

The contest truly featured everything that makes a game great: two evenly matched teams, a last second shot, an overtime period, a last 3-pointer to change the game’s outcome. All of it was completed by young men in high school who maintained their composure.

YORE ON FIRST TEAM… Coloma varsity basketball senior guard Kayla Yore earned First Team All-Conference honors in the SAC. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

In the end, it was the Tigers jumping in the air, victorious. It was Grand Rapids Catholic players wiping away tears as, for some, their high school basketball career fell just short of a trophy.

For Benton Harbor fans, it was an exciting, unbelievable, fairytale ending. For the players, the ultimate prize awaited; a season culminating in an achievement to which no other team can lay claim: the Benton Harbor Tigers are the 2018 Class B State Champions.

Gear is Watervliet’s Hall of Fame first female honoree