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
Kim Gear may now wear Coloma green and gold, well, gear, but long before she joined the Comets as the varsity volleyball and junior varsity basketball coach she was a stellar athlete at Watervliet.
The 2005 graduate earned plenty of athletic distinction while wearing maroon and white as a Panther, including becoming the first female athlete from the school to be named the Herald-Palladium athlete of the year.
Gear was All-State in basketball for 2003 and 2004. On the hard court she is a member of the 1,000-point club having scored 1,062 career points. She also tallied 671 rebounds and blocked 199 shots.
She earned All-State honors in volleyball in 2005 and was a member of the 2004 and 2005 district championship teams. She had 1,334 kills and 237 blocks.
SCHROEDER NAMED FIRST TEAM… Senior center Robbie Schroeder was one of three Coloma Comets who earned First Team All-Conference honors for boys’ varsity basketball. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)
Gear was a state qualifier in shot put in 2004 and 2005 and was the conference champion in both of those years.
She was one of 10 honorees who were inducted into Watervliet’s inaugural Hall of Fame Class on March 1.
After receiving the Hall of Fame honor, Gear took a moment to reflect on her sports career, her roots, and those who instilled.
“One of the greatest moments [of my sports career] was scoring my 1,000th point. Definitely a moment that I won’t forget. Also, I would say getting the phone call that I was named H-P Female Athlete of the Year. That was a huge honor because I was the first girl to ever receive this from Watervliet!
FIRST CLASS CLUSTER… Watervliet varsity basketball senior forward Dan Cluster earned First Team All-Conference honors in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
“Being on a team is the best thing in the world. [I] miss it every day and [I’m] thankful to be able to coach high school sports. Being on a team makes you strong in leadership skills, responsibilities, and communication. Also, just experiencing the fun of being on a team brings you because some of us only are on a team for four years and some maybe can be on a team for eight years. They go fast and it’s something that you will always be a part of for years.”
Being a talented athlete and part of a team helped form who Gear is as a coach. So did having great coaches.
“In my years of playing I have had a lot of coaches. During high school it definitely was Mr. Geisler. He would always talk to me either during practice or at school on how always to improve and to keep practicing to get better. He always knew just how to push me to always do my best. He always expected my best and if I wasn’t giving it my best he knew how to fix it pretty quickly.
“I feel as a coach some players can handle pressure and others can’t. Understanding your players and how to push them is something that I really focus on. I had two coaches during college who were Dan Thornton and Coach Welch; they were amazing role models on every level. When I coach I take a little part of all the coaches I have had or watched to help develop my teams.”
WILL WORKED FOR WIN… Hartford senior guard William Martinez was a standout on this season’s varsity basketball squad. As a result, he garnered a First Team All-Conference nod in the SW10.
Following high school, Gear attended KVCC where she played volleyball and basketball. The squad went to their respective national tournaments in both sports her freshman year.
Following KVCC, Gear finished her college career at Wayne State University, playing two years of volleyball and one of basketball.
Gear earned a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education with honors from Western Michigan University.
In addition to basketball and volleyball, Gear is a talented equestrian. She has multiple top 10 finishes at the World Show held in Oklahoma and is a two-time world champion and reserve champion.
As for being inducted as the first – and only – female member of the inaugural Hall of Fame class, Gear remarked, “It’s an honor to be in the first class with such a prestigious group of athletes and coaches. I know that there are more amazing female athletes that will be [joining] me soon!”
Goodline lights up free throw contest, wins
The Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan held their 2018 Top Shooters Free Throw and Three Point contests last weekend, and local student-athlete Zach Goodline participated in both.
Goodline, a junior guard on the Coloma boys’ varsity basketball squad stayed true to form and won the free throw challenge.
A+ FOR AJ… Hartford’s AJ Jackson, a 6’1” senior center on the Indian squad, received First Team All-Conference recognition in the Southwest 10 Conference for basketball.
Goodline competed against 19 competitors at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center in both contests and was one of three athletes who competed in both events.
Athletes participating were tops in the state at the charity stripe. Each athlete had to have attempted 50 free throws during the regular season. The shooter also had to be nominated by his coach.
The free throw competition featured 25 attempts in the first round, with the top 10 highest shooters moving on to round two. In the second round, the players attempted another 25 shots. The two highest shot sinkers moved on to the final round where they alternated tosses until one athlete missed.
In the 3-point contest, athletes nominated by their coach had to have the highest percentage in Michigan with over 50 attempts.
The format was similar to the free throw contest with two rounds whittling the field down to two participants in the final round.
Prior to the free throw contest, Goodline was ranked 15th highest of the competitors with 132 attempts during the regular season and 110 shots ringing true (83.33%).
In the 3-point contest, Goodline was seventh overall with 71 hits out of 153 attempts, giving him a 46.41%.
While Goodline won the free throw contest, Rochester Adams’ Ethan Emerzian won the 3-point contest.
Kieft receives MHSAA Scholar-Athlete Award
Bryant Kieft received the Michigan High School Athletic Association Scholar-Athlete Award Saturday, March 24 at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University.
KIEFT AWARDED SCHOLAR-ATHLETE AWARD… Bryant Kieft (center) of Watervliet High School was honored as a recipient of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Scholar-Athlete Award at the 2018 MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center in East Lansing on March 24. Shown with Kieft are: Don Simon (left), executive vice president for Farm Bureau Insurance, and John E. “Jack” Roberts (right), executive director of the MHSAA. Kieft will receive a $1,000 scholarship from Farm Bureau Insurance to be used at the institution of higher learning he attends this fall. Farm Bureau Insurance awarded 32 scholarships, proportionately by school classification, to students with a 3.50 or higher (on a 4.0 scale) grade point average who have previously lettered in at least one sport in which postseason competition is sponsored by the MHSAA.
Kieft, a senior at Watervliet High School, applied for the scholarship sponsored by Farm Bureau Insurance.
To qualify, Kieft had to accrue a minimum 3.5 grade point average, have earned a varsity letter in a sport recognized by MHSAA, and complete an essay.
Kieft was one of 32 student-athletes to win the $1,000 award.
Ken Dietz, WHS athletic director, shared that Kieft is the fourth MHSAA Scholar-Athlete winner from Watervliet since 2011.
“Kieft continues a tradition of excellence, joining 2001 graduate Alex Spaulding, 2013 graduate Nicole Winters, and 2017 graduate Tyler Brant