The Western Michigan Christian girls basketball team’s magic ran out in the opening round of the Class C regional tournament at Calvin Christian High School on Tuesday night, as they fell to Springport, 59-44.
A slow start forced the Warriors to bring beyond their “A” game early on to stay relevant. Once back in the game, Springport’s pace only accelerated, eventually overpowering WMC.
Photos from Tuesday’s game
“I give it all to Springport,” WMC head coach Jeremy Goorman said. “They played a great game. They shut down our offense and hit the boards hard.”
The Warriors were coming off a historic win over their district tournament nemesis Kent City last week, defeating the three-time defending district champs for a crack at the regional.
“Coming off the win we were super amped up and emotional at the same time,” WMC senior Cassie Kingma said. “We were thinking through all the possible scenarios, we really wanted to come out and do well, and it might have gotten to us a little bit.”
The emotional start got the best of the Warriors, who struggled to get their game together in the opening minutes of play. The Spartans jumped out to a 6-0 lead over the first two minutes.
“It was a different game, I think Springport put a different type of pressure on us,” coach Goorman said. “They were bigger and stronger, that really gave our girls problems.”
The struggles did not define the Warriors, Katelyn Wright righted the ship with a 3-pointer to get WMC on track. One good shot proved to be all the spark they needed to charge back into the game. By the end of the first quarter, they trailed by two points, 18-16.
Just as the Warriors seemed poised to take control, sophomore post player and single-season scoring record holder Aubrey Goorman took a hard foul fighting for a rebound, breaking her nose and taking her out of the game.
The Warriors did not quit without their leading scorer, taking their first lead midway through the second quarter, 22-21.
“The girls played well without her in the second quarter,” coach Goorman said. “I was proud of the way the girls kept their poise. I think that was the best we played as far as not turning the ball over.”
Springport worked back into the lead, 25-22, but Wright was feeling clutch, nailing another 3-pointer to keep an even keel.
Prolific transition scoring for the Spartans gave them a quick six points heading into halftime, putting the Warriors down by as many, 31-25.
The trouble continued in the third quarter, with WMC unable to score until four minutes into the period.
The Spartans capitalized on the offensive drought, ripping off a 12-point quarter. By the end of the third, the damage was done with the Warriors trailing, 43-29.
The final frame was an exercise in heart, which the Warriors passed with flying colors.
Despite trailing by 14, WMC continued to fight. Kingma kicked off a run with a 3-pointer, while Goorman returned to fighting form, putting up eight points in the final quarter. Wright showed the ice in her veins, nailing yet another 3-pointer. The effort pulled WMC within six in the final minutes of play.
“All year long we talked about just getting the next possession,” coach Goorman said of the run. “Don’t worry about the past. We got it down to six, and then we missed and gave No. 34 (Fatima Idkhafif) a foul and one, that stretched their lead again. The girls played hard the whole game.”
For senior Cassie Kingma, who led the Warriors with 11 points, the motivation came from dedication to her teammates.
“It was definitely the team, this was for them,” she said of the inspired fourth quarter. “I’m a senior, I wanted to do it for my fellow seniors and just keep pushing to the end and never give up no matter what the outcome was. I didn’t want to regret not trying at the end.”
The game concluded with both teams playing well, down to the final seconds. The fourth quarter surge brought about Kingma’s team-high 11 points, followed by Anna Sytsema’s 10.
Wright came next on the state sheet with nine, all from behind the arc, while Goorman scored her total in the fourth, with eight points. Rounding out the Warrior scoring was Harlie Hubers with six points.
The end of the 2017 Warrior playoff run will serve as a rallying cry for the program. In coach Goorman’s first year at the helm, WMC went further than they have in recent memory.
“I think it definitely excited some of the younger girls,” he said. “That is why we pulled some of them up, hoping we would make a run and they could enjoy it.”
Kingma credits he time as a pull-up player for her success in the program.
“It is definitely a building block,” she said. “I’m super proud of everyone, showing the underclassmen, ‘hey, you can do this’ and how to put the hard work in.
“I came up as a freshmen and I really appreciated the love that the seniors showed me when I was there, so we tried to get everyone involved.”
Kingma led a group of five seniors that will be missed across the board.
“I’m going to miss the girls,” coach Goorman said. “Everyday, I wasn’t tired when I went to work. That is a testament to their personalities. They are godly women that really cheer for each other and put Christ first, and that just made me excited to be around them.
“Every practice, every game, we were dialed in with our effort.”
With a strong core of returning talent, including their leading scorer, the Warriors have a lot to look forward to in the coming years. The regional round may have to get used to seeing green.