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Fruitport boys hoops team closes out season with narrow loss to Whitehall

Josh VanDyke • Mar 6, 2018 at 1:16 AM

SPRING LAKE TWP. — The Fruitport boys basketball program hasn't enjoyed a multitude of success in recent seasons, but that didn't stop the Trojans from playing like a playoff contender Monday in the Class B district opener at Spring Lake High School.

Fruitport battled for 32 minutes with a talented Whitehall squad, exchanging lead changes and momentum swings in an entertaining contest between two young programs.

In the end, the Trojans' long-range shots and upset bid fell short to the tune of a 47-37 loss.

"I thought we had some good looks, especially in the late third quarter and early on in the fourth," said first-year Fruitport head coach Steve Erny. "We picked up our pressure on defense in the second half, but it seemed like every time we cut the lead down to three or so, we couldn't find that shot. That was probably the most frustrating part is that we were in it, but the shots just weren't falling when we needed them."

The Trojans held a 10-9 lead after the first quarter but trailed 23-20 at halftime.

The game shifted in the beginning of the third quarter when the Vikings opened the second half on a 6-0 run to push the lead to 29-20.

"We played great defense, but sometimes, when you exert yourself so much on that end of the floor, you get tired on offense," added Erny. "I think that might have been why we were a little off on our jumpers.

"I thought the start of that third quarter was really the difference in the game. We played them evenly to that point, but they jumped out to a little 6-0 run to start that half and then they get up by nine points. After that, we were chasing and trying to cut the lead to one possession.

"We came out flat for just a few possessions, and that's all it takes against a good team."

Senior guard Cam Oleen scored 15 points to lead the Trojans (2-19), while junior Cam Schultz added six and sophomore Marcelo Conklin chipped in with five.

"I'm proud of the work that Cam has put in this season," added Erny. "I know he's got bigger and better things ahead of him as far as his track and field career, but he really gives it his all out on the basketball court for us.

"Tonight, he kept us in it with the way got to the basketball and made the hustle plays. He isn't necessarily the loudest talker, but he's going to outwork a lot of people and is a great role model for the younger kids in our program just with his work ethic."

Despite only recording two wins in the last two seasons, the Trojans senior class of five stuck it out from beginning to end and never wavered in their commitment to the game or the program.

"These guys are competitors. We have a group of guys here that are always willing to battle it out, no matter what the circumstances," said Erny. "We just couldn't piece it together this year. We had a tough conference schedule, and we never really got any positive momentum going in stretches.

"They've had a tough couple years here, but I think it says something about them that these five seniors never quit on basketball. They stuck with it and they worked their tails off every day at practice to get better, even when we weren't winning a lot. I respect them a lot for that."

In his second year as the leader of the program, Erny is expecting a big summer of progress within his young roster.

"We've got a long way to go, but we're excited about the direction of the program," he said. "We have a lot of talented underclassmen working their way up the ranks and our junior varsity team was very successful this season.

"Our starting point guard is only a sophomore in Marcelo Conklin. He was thrown into the fire as a freshman, and he continues to get better and better. I think he'll probably take over that leadership role that Cam (Oleen) is leaving behind.

"This summer will be big for our entire program. That's when you develop your shooters and develop your own game as individuals. I'm excited about the kids we have coming back and I told all our seniors in the locker room after the game that I couldn't be prouder of what they've given this program."

For one senior, the chance to start a new era at Fruitport was something to be proud of.

"As a team, we played really hard," said Oleen after the game. "We were down by 12 points midway through the game, and usually we kind of give up after that, but we didn't tonight. I feel like that game could have gone either way, but we just couldn't make the plays down the stretch.

"We basically started a new program this year with new coaches and everything was different. I think we did a pretty good job considering we were still learning new plays and new styles throughout the season. This is the start of something new at Fruitport and the seniors this year got to be the start of it.

"We're hoping our hustle and work ethic leaves a mark on the program and leads to big changes in the program moving forward."

UP NEXT

Whitehall (14-7) advances to play Oakridge (8-12) in the district semifinals on Wednesday at 6 p.m., while Spring Lake (17-4) takes on Montague (13-7) at 7:30 p.m. at Spring Lake High School.

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