After a tough winless season saw plenty of bounces go against the Trojans, the squad made sure to leave nothing up to chance in their season opener Tuesday against Holton.
Fruitport used an active defensive effort and unselfish passing on offense to cruise past the Red Devils, 54-28.
"It feels great. This gives us a lot of confidence as a team," said Fruitport senior guard Cam Oleen. "Last year was tough, and we knew we were probably going to take a lot of losses along the way. This year, we know we're going to be a lot better, and everyone on the team is excited about it.
"We've got a really good starting five, we've got depth and we're all really confident in ourselves. I thought we all played hard tonight, and we all wanted this one."
The win was also the first for new Fruitport head coach Steve Erny.
"I haven't really thought about it too much, to be honest. It's a cool moment for me and it's something I love to do," he said after the game. "It's always nice to start the season off with a win, but I think this win means more to the guys in that locker room than it does for me.
"They were the ones who experienced the growing pains last year. I just wanted them to make sure they don't let the highs get too high or the lows get too low. We have to stay hungry and keep focusing on improving every day, regardless of the results on the scoreboard. I'm just happy they were able to get that win early on and now they can just focus on themselves and put last year behind them."
The Trojans jumped out to an 11-6 lead in the first quarter and pulled away for a 27-11 halftime advantage.
"I thought we came out and played inspired. The guys did everything that I asked them to do and really played focused in that first half," Erny said. "They certainly played hard, especially on the defensive end, and I thought that's where we really established the tempo of the game.
"We were active in the passing lanes. A lot of that is on the guards being aggressive, but that's also because of the other four guys on defense doing their jobs, too. When you trust the guys behind you to do their jobs, you can take risks like that."
The Trojans extended their lead to 44-17 at the end of the third quarter, but Erny thought the team let its collective foot off the gas pedal in the fourth quarter.
"I thought we kind of had a hard time keeping the intensity up in the second half at times," he said. "I told the guys that we have to learn how to win games and learn how to keep the pressure up even when you have a big lead. They didn't experience a lot of that last year, so we're still learning and working on that.
"Regardless, it was a fun way to start the season and hopefully we can build on this."
Oleen led all scorers with 22 points, while Marcelo Conklin and Cam Schultze each added seven.
"He can be a real force on the defensive side of the ball, and offensively, I thought he played very smart," Erny said of Oleen. "He attacked when it was there, but he didn't make a lot of mistakes or bad decisions. As a team, we're probably going to go as he goes this year. He's a very athletic kid and he's super quick, so he can affect the game on both ends of the court.
"He had an impressive night on the stat sheet, but what I remember most is the pressure he was putting on the ball handlers, the times he was diving on the court for loose balls. He's one of our best communicators on the team, and he did a nice job with that, too.
"Marcelo had a nice 3-pointer early on in the game that I thought gave our whole team confidence. Sometimes it's nice to see the ball go in early and then you feel like you can make anything. Brendan Kemme is a senior who can really help us get things rolling, and he did a lot of little things that sparked our team."
Oleen doesn't take his job lightly as the team's senior leader and displayed great effort and enthusiasm through the course of the game.
"I always want to energize my teammates and get everybody hustling out there," he said. "If we can get everyone doing that for every game; we're going to go places this year.
"I've been working on my shot a lot. I want to be able to hit jumpers consistently, but if not, I know I need to drive to the hoop or dish it out to a teammate. I just want to help out the team however I can."
Fruitport turns its attention to an age-old rivalry against Spring Lake on Friday. The Trojans will host the Lakers at 7:30 p.m.
"Honestly, I've been thinking past this opener a little bit, because I'm so pumped for Spring Lake on Friday," Oleen admitted. "I'm ready, our team is ready and we all want to win that one. Three years ago, we beat them when I was a freshman. Now, I want to end my career with a win against them to kind of cap off my time here."
Junior varsity: Fruitport defeated Holton, 64-36.