Grand Haven coach Aaron Dean, on the other hand, feels that how his team handles the atmosphere, not the opponent, will dictate how the Buccaneers fare in their Division 1 title game today.
One thing’s for sure: Both coaches — who were high school teammates at Grand Haven back in the early 1990s — will have their teams ready to go when the opening whistle blows.
“I’ve stressed to the guys that our Coopersville game, the first one of districts, was just as important as this one, because if we hadn’t won the Coopersville game, we wouldn’t be here,” said Thelen, whose No. 2-ranked Lakers face unranked Auburn Hills Avondale in today’s Division 2 state final at Troy. “A lot of people want to put pressure on us, but I’m not worried about the state finals. Our guys will come out and play our way.”
Thelen has spent some time scouting Avondale over the past few days and sees a team that features a dangerous player up top.
“They’re 17-5, and they play in a tough conference,” he said. “One of their games is up on the MHSAA website, so I watched through it. They have a kid named (Nathan) Chapman who is a state champion in track. He’s fast, and they look for him up top.”
Thelen said he actively manages his team’s defensive game-plan based on the opponent.
“Obviously, we’re marking certain players, man-marking or zone-marking, doing different things every game,” Thelen said. “At this point, we’ve played a couple games in a row where we’ve had to drastically change things, so it’s really not that difficult for the kids. DeWitt, we didn’t mark anybody, we just played solid defense. Grand Rapids Christian they had a stud up top, so we marked one guy. Against Mattawan, they had two guys up top who could really do things. It just depends on the game.”
To read more of this story, see today's print or E-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.