08-03-2017 Tri-City Area Sports

Busch gets first win of season at Pocono

Sometimes destiny is just in the cards. It just might take a bit to reveal itself, as Kyle Busch can attest.

Busch had been winless this season, after coming off an impressive four-win year in 2016. Last year, Busch had tallied 17 top five finishes and 25 top 10 finishes in 36 races.

This year, although he started four races from the pole position, he was unable to convert any of those prime race starting positions into a first place finish and trophy, until Sunday.

In the Overton’s 400, Busch won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series checkered flag at Pocono Raceway.

The 160-lap race featured 16 lead changes and five caution periods for 21 laps. But, when you start the race at the head of the pack, you put a lot of distractions in your rear view mirror.

Busch led 74 laps and collected his first win of the season and 39th career victory. Sunday’s start also marked Busch’s fifth pole position of the season.

Kevin Harvick finished in second place, earning his eighth top five finish of the year.

Martin Truex Jr. took third place. Truex led 31 circuits in Sunday’s race, the 21st of the season. Truex has three wins this season and picked up his eighth top five finish this season.

Denny Hamlin drove to a fourth place finish. Hamlin’s finish gave him his seventh top five of the year.  He led 18 laps.

Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five, after he led six laps, and tallied his 11th top five finish of the year.

Sixteen drivers finished the race on the lead lap.  Drivers who did not finish in the top five but led laps included: Clint Bowyer (5), Matt Kenseth (9), Austin Dillon (2), Erik Jones (4), and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (11).

Next up is Sunday’s I Love New York 355 at the Glen. Hamlin was the 2016 race winner at Watkins Glen International. After finishing fourth this week, you can be sure he’ll be on the hunt for a win.

MIS race fans, be sure to get your tickets to the Pure Michigan 400, scheduled for Sunday, August 13! Time is running out.

Top five local sports related events of the 2016-2017 school year

Each year in the summer, the annual Press Box anniversary article is published, which includes the top five most memorable moments that occurred on our local sports fields, courts, trails, and gym floors during the preceding school year.

It’s always difficult to winnow the list to five. There are so many players and people that make watching sports fun and so many great stories that come from the Coloma, Hartford, and Watervliet sports teams.

Sports, like life, are about highs and lows and the stories that are created by both.  It’s about being reminded that not everyone finishes first and that it takes guts and determination and passion to continue playing or running or hitting when you know you will never be the superstar.

Sports are about hearing your name called as the emcee reads off the starting lineup. It’s also about sitting on the bench cheering your teammates on, watching from the sideline.

Sports is about playing together, establishing team camaraderie together, triumphing together. It’s also about suffering defeat, feeling at odds with the coach, and being disappointed in yourself.

Sports is about losing in overtime, striking out to end the game with runners in scoring position, and three-putting on the green. It’s also about sinking the winning shot in overtime, scoring the winning touchdown that sends your team to the playoffs, and kicking the game-winning goal.

But sports are so much more than winning, losing, and becoming a cohesive team.

Sports offer the chance to be involved, for student athletes to do their best, reach for the stars. Sports gives kids an outlet to learn responsibility, commitment, and hard work and everything those three traits entail.

Sports give teenagers a chance to learn from each other, learn from the coach, learn about themselves. It allows kids – in the safety of their school and community – to soar… and fail. It lets athletes know that there will be another game, another chance, another day.

Sports can teach a lot of things: the rules of the game, names of playing positions, roles on the team, and the meaning of stats.

What sports can’t teach is at the center of what makes sports great: heart. Sports will not teach you to run faster. It will not teach you to throw harder. It will not teach you to be fierce, a force with which to be reckoned. That comes from a student-athlete having heart.

Heart is what made Hartford’s Francisco Loera run cross country even if he didn’t finish first. Heart is what made Coloma tennis players hit the court week after week against teams that were more experienced than they were. Heart is Jade Miller, a physical, energetic hustler at Watervliet who may not have started the basketball game but she gave and left all she had on the court. There is not one person who outhustled Miller this year. Not one.

Heart is Ken Dietz, Nick Blackmer, and Wendy Goodline, the athletic directors at Watervliet, Hartford, and Coloma, respectively, who lead successful programs at their high schools all the while giving of their time, energy, and passion for sports at the expense of their families.

Heart is the Athletic Boosters at each of the schools and their efforts to increase attendance at sporting events, their dedication as they work the concession stands, restock spirit items, and constantly promote their schools.

Heart is each and every head coach and member of the coaching staff who gives of their experience, knowledge, and talent teaching future generations how to pole vault, blitz, dig, and leap.

Heart is the forever faithful fans who attend games in the pouring rain and blazing heat wearing green and gold, green and white, and maroon and white.

Heart is the Comet Crew, Gang Green, and Maroon Platoon.

Heart is what makes high school sports more than high school sports. It makes communities, creates threads, and instills a sense of pride that says, “We’re all in this together, and we can do it! We can be better, we can overcome, we can create legacies.”

This list is not meant to be all inclusive of every sport, every player, and every game. And it certainly doesn’t reflect the hundreds of other great moments in sports this year in our area.

For example, it doesn’t list Coloma’s Jamane Smith’s run for a state title in the 189 lb. weight class after he won the SAC championship title. Maybe it should.

It doesn’t tell you about the dynamic mind-blowing, super scoring, one-two combo of Austin Nelson and Will Martinez on the Hartford basketball court. Maybe it should.

It doesn’t remind you of Dan Cluster dunking during Panther basketball games or Hartford’s AJ Jackson’s work in the discus and shot put rings, or Coloma’s Kobe Hunter’s high kicking and high scoring mad soccer skills. Maybe it should.

The list doesn’t include the undefeated Coloma girls’ varsity bowling team and their stellar season. Maybe it should.

It doesn’t celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Fruit Belt Series or the district titles won by Coloma volleyball, Coloma wrestling, and Watervliet girls’ basketball. Maybe it should.

What the list does represent are moments that were bigger than just one game, one person, one title. It showcases the times when fans got that feeling in the pit of their stomachs that told them they were watching something amazing.

With that being said, here is this year’s Top Five moments in sports:

Moment One: Hartford boys’ soccer celebrates undefeated regular conference season

Speaking of legacies, Hartford varsity boys’ soccer coach Nick Blackmer is well on his way to creating one. Blackmer has taken the Indians’ soccer program to the next level and this season proved to be no exception.

UNDEFEATED INDIANS… The Hartford Indians boys’ varsity soccer team proved to be unbeatable during their SAC season. The squad rolled to a perfect 12-0 in conference play and won the conference title in 2016-2017.

The Indians outplayed their opponents and topped the Southwestern Athletic Conference with an undefeated 12-0 record. The title marked the school’s fourth in seven years.

Not only did Hartford put together an undefeated season in the conference their overall record was 17-1.

The Indians also strung together four shutouts to open their season and went on to record shutouts of seven of their 12 conference opponents.

Blackmer’s bigger hope is one felt off the field. His goal, if you will, is to create responsible young men who participate in their community, strive for better in their little corner of the world, and reach out and lift up others.

Blackmer’s legacy at Hartford will continue to be one mixed between winning games and winning at life and there’s no bigger goal a coach can achieve.

Moment Two: Great Goodline

Zach Goodline entered his sophomore year knowing that a lot would be expected of him as he led a Coloma varsity basketball squad. After all, he led the team in scoring as a freshman.

He certainly delivered upon those expectations. Goodline is central to Coloma’s success on the court. He is a feisty guard who nails free throws, drains jumpers amid heavy (read: double- and often triple-teamed) traffic in the lane, and dishes no-look passes to teammates waiting at the top of the key. Goodline can drill 3-pointers all day long. He is fun to watch as he races up the court, dribbling the ball behind his back, between his legs, and past his opponents.

Goodline isn’t the entirety of the Coloma squad, but he sure did the heavy lifting this year. As a matter of fact, Goodline became the first Comet player to score 1,000 career points. And he was only a sophomore.

SWEET SOFTBALL QUARTERFINALS… The Coloma varsity softball team posted a heck of a 2017 season. They were outright Southwestern Athletic Conference champions, won the district title, and played in the MHSAA state quarterfinals. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

In addition to setting a new high school scoring record, Goodline was named to the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan’s Best (formerly All-State) team. He was one of two sophomores to make the grade. Goodline also won All-District honors.

Goodline will continue to awe and amaze this winter on the court. And that’s why he made the list.

Moment Three: Watervliet basketball gets first win in stunning triple overtime fashion

The beginning of Watervliet’s varsity basketball season could be summed up in one word: rough.

The squad dropped the season opener by one point to Bloomingdale. They lost 48-46 to Saugatuck. The Panthers suffered a 45-24 loss to South Haven. The biggest insult was the 82-38 drubbing by Fennville.

But, everything changed on January 20, as Watervliet met up against Bangor on the road in a Southwestern Athletic Conference game.

Talk about doing a 180. The Panthers led first period action 16-6. The Watervliet squad set the pace in the early minutes of the game and commanded the floor as they scored bucket after bucket.

The 10-point lead shrank by two in the second period, but Watervliet held steady and the lead 30-22 at intermission.

The big men Dan Cluster, Bryant Kieft, and Sheldon Tobar led the Panther scoring in the first half. Their size, speed, and ball handling abilities gave the Panthers the boost they needed.

But, a Bangor rally was a’ coming. In the third period, Watervliet saw their lead shrink by one point to 37-30 as the pesky Bangor Vikings would not go quietly into the night.

It was a fourth quarter barn burner, as Bangor bounced back to tie the game. Watervliet fell apart as frustrations on the court mounted with shots banging off the rim. At the end of regulation, Watervliet and Bangor were knotted up at 44 apiece.

So, off to overtime we go. Both squads went with a more conservative game in O.T., equally balancing shot taking opportunities with the time remaining on the clock. The teams exchanged bucket for bucket, and, as time expired, the teams were tied 51-51.

Bring on overtime period number two! With tension mounting, the squads ramped up their shooting. And, without fresh legs, fatigue was beginning to set in for both teams. It was do or die and neither team gave quarter.

Bangor raced to an early lead before Watervliet staunched the shooting. Back and forth, shot for shot, 3-pointers and free throws. As time on the clock drained to zero, the teams were tied 60-60.

It took a third overtime period of play before Watervliet was able to notch their first win of the season. It was gritty, it was poignant, it was sheer determination by each member of the pride of Panthers that gave them the 70-66 win over Bangor in triple overtime.

It was an all-out team effort on the part of the Panthers. The bench stepped up, the fans screamed their support, and at the end of the game there was immense satisfaction of all parties in the Panthers’ first victory of the season.

Moment Four: Coloma softball’s quarterfinals run

Wendy Goodline, the unrelenting coach of the Coloma girls’ varsity softball squad, has also created quite a legacy for the Comets. She continues to helm the best softball team in our area, year after year, with precision, preparedness, and dogged determination to get the absolute best out of her players.

This year, the Coloma softball team perfected their playing and collected SAC conference, district, and regional championships.

The team traveled to Hope College in mid-June to play Napoleon in the Michigan High School Athletic Association quarterfinals game in Division 3 quarterfinals game.

It was a nail-biter of a game as Coloma fought for every out and every run.

The game saw a bit of everything from the two teams. There was a call at home plate that was overturned, giving Coloma a run, which then signaled a Comet rally.

GREAT GOODLINE… Colo-ma’s Zach Goodline set the standard for future Coloma Comet basketball players. He was the first in school history to score – and then top – 1,000 points on the court. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

There were steals, pop ups, double plays, and hit batsmen. Although the Comets trailed most of the contest, they fought tooth and nail and mounted a sixth inning rally.

Unfortunately, the runs fell short for Coloma, and they lost 9-7 to a very good Napoleon team.

But, it was nice to see Goodline’s squad, who worked hard all season to record a 38-9 overall record, get some glory. They definitely deserved it.

Moment Five: Hartford leaves SAC, joins Southwest 10

Everyone can agree that Hartford football has not lived up to its rich history in terms of wins and playoff appearances of late. The program has seen a revolving door of coaches over the last three years, with none lasting more than one season.

On the flip side of that coin is the Hartford soccer program, which continues to blaze through its season scoring win after win after win.

So, it was a bit of a surprise and head scratcher when word hit the street that the school was leaving the Southwestern Athletic Conference and joining the newly formed Southwest 10.

The news stunned some fans and foes and gave hope to others. And, while no one would say it aloud on record, many felt the move was made strictly in the best interests of the football program.

However, Hartford Athletic Director (and boys’ varsity soccer coach) Nick Blackmer made it clear that the biggest reason for the move was the size of the schools in the SAC and the travel time and distance to play some opponents.

The Southwest 10, Blackmer explained, would offer a more competitively-aligned playing field for the Indians and offer shorter travel times for the Indian teams.

Another questionable action felt by some was the speed with which the change was made. Typically, when a school makes a conference change, they are required by the conference charter to give one year’s notice. The ink wasn’t quite dry on paperwork approving the change a mere nine months before the 2017-2018 school year was to start.

Be that as it may, the Southwest 10 is ready for the upcoming fall sports season. The conference includes Bangor, Bloomingdale, Cassopolis, Centreville, Decatur, Eau Claire, Hartford, Marcellus, Mendon, and White Pigeon.

Of the 10 schools, Mendon has the lowest enrollment with 203 students, while Bangor has the most (364 students). Hartford’s enrollment total puts them third largest overall with 328 students and trailing Bloomingdale (349).

That completes this year’s Top Five Moments in Area Sports. Fall sports begin practice next week, and schedules are being released for upcoming play. Become part of the Tri-City Record sports fan nation, and come out to a game, match, or meet this season!

A GEM OF A PLAYER… Wa-tervliet’s Jade Miller allowed no one to outhustle, outwork, and outplay her during her senior year as a Panther. Whether she hit the trails during the fall cross country season, was on the bas-ketball court in the winter, or hustling around the track in the spring, Miller was always pumped up and ready to give it her all. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

Photo up for Hartford football

The Hartford football program, working with Amy’s Angels, has a new event on tap to help raise funds for the upcoming 2017 season.

On Saturday, August 19, head to Ely Park in downtown Hartford to participate in the Amy’s Angels Photo Scavenger Hunt. Registration for this fun event begins at 11:00 a.m. the day of the hunt.

Gather your friends, camera, score and rules sheets, and get snapping! Your team can have between two and five players. Cost is only $50 and includes lunch.

Top prize for the best shutterbugs is $100. Second place wins $75, and third place takes home $50.

All proceeds from the event will benefit Hartford’s high school football program. Monies will be used for new equipment, training aids, and the like.

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact Amy’s Angels at (269) 350-7851. To pre-register, visit myamysangels.org/events and click on the Register Now link.

Last chance to sign up for Glad-Peach 5K walk, run, and bike

It’s early August and you know what that means! It’s time for the Glad-Peach 5K run, walk, and bike event slated for Saturday, August 5.

Online registration ends August 4 at 9:00 a.m., so you have just a handful of hours to toss your hat into the competing ring.

The 10K walk, 5K bike, and 10K bike race all hit the starting line at 7:45 a.m. The 5K run, 10K run, and 5K walk take off at 8:30 a.m.

The cost to register is $30.

A family fun run begins at 9:45 a.m. and has a registration fee of $12.00.

Head to Salem Lutheran Church, located at 275 Marvin Street in Coloma for the race kickoff.

Even if you’re not lacing up your kicks for the event, stop on out along the route to cheer on the participants! Make it a peach-tacular 5 and 10K!

Ladies Monday Night Happy Hour Golf League

Monday, July 31 golf report from the Paw Paw Lake Golf Club:

Weekly Event Winner – Longest Drive on Hole 18, Kathy Osborne; Low Gross – Kathy Osborne with 52; Low Putts – Carol Klass with 13 (six 1 putts); Pars – Sandra Johnson #14, Cheryl Hutchins #14, Kathy Osborne #12; Pitch In – Sandra Johnson on #14.


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