History has shown that one or two losses rarely means you're out of the running for a title, and with only a few days between games, there isn't much time to dwell on losses or celebrate wins.
That's the case for both Grand Haven and Spring Lake this week, as the Buccaneers host West Ottawa and the Lakers travel to Allendale.
The Grand Haven boys bounced back from a 17-3 deficit against an eager East Kentwood squad to record a 58-49 conference win. A slow start against the Panthers, however, won't likely net the same result.
West Ottawa enters Friday's matchup with a 5-1 overall record. The Panthers lost their season opener to Godwin Heights (78-67), but have been on a tear ever since. They have recorded five straight double-digit wins with victories over Holland (63-24), Mona Shores (66-45), Grand Rapids Christian (51-38), Hudsonville (63-44) and Rockford (55-44).
After a record-breaking season last winter, which saw the Panthers win the O-K Red Conference title with a perfect 12-0 mark and finish the season 23-2 overall, West Ottawa returns four of five starters this season.
Starters Tyler Bosma, Xavier Wade, Drew Pederson and Nick Wehrmeyer are joined by Liam Cavanaugh and Jason Fairfield to form a strong core of dynamic playmakers that should make the Panthers the team to beat in the O-K Red Conference and a formidable competitor in the Class A playoffs.
An upset win at home over West Ottawa would put the Buccaneers squarely in the mix for the O-K Red Conference title, and make a statement to the rest of the Class A field that you shouldn't take this year's Grand Haven squad lightly.
HAVEN GIRLS LOOK TO BOUNCE BACK
The Grand Haven girls basketball team is coming off a heartbreaking loss to No. 1-ranked East Kentwood on Friday. The Buccaneers trailed by merely two points with 46 seconds remaining, but the late-game execution and a controversial ruling by the scorekeeper changed the course of the game in a 51-47 home loss.
The West Ottawa girls squad is led by first-year head coach Paul Chapman, who took over the program after Jeff Bauer resigned in the summer.
The former Holland boys varsity basketball coach already has strong ties to West Ottawa, as he spent 10 years coaching at the school from the 1990s to early 2000s. Chapman also spent time at Grand Haven High School as a freshmen boys basketball coach before his stint with West Ottawa.
"Paul is a great coach, and he's well-known in this area," said Grand Haven head coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer. "I'm sure he'll have a unique gameplan in place because he does a great job scouting and preparing his teams for the upcoming opponent. He's spent time at Grand Haven before he was over at West Ottawa and Holland, so I'm sure this game means a lot to him, too."
The Panthers are enjoying a resurgent season so far this winter with a 6-1 mark. West Ottawa is coming off a 64-52 road win over Rockford on Tuesday, after dropping their conference opener to Hudsonville (67-60).
In the non-conference season, West Ottawa defeated Zeeland East (43-29), Zeeland West (48-38), Holland (53-22), Mona Shores (46-30) and Grand Rapids Union (66-36).
Junior Natalie Dunn fuels the Panthers' attack on offense. Against Rockford, she scored 19 points and swiped four steals. Teammate Audrey Pohl, the team's leading rebounder, had 12 points and 10 rebounds against the Rams, while Maria Price had 12 points and three steals.
"West Ottawa has a lot of experience on their roster. They have seven players who have been on varsity for three or four years," Kowalczyk-Fulmer added. "They've got some talented players, and they've been scoring in the 60s the last few games.
"Natalie Dunn is an explosive point guard for them, and she's their leading scorer. Audrey Pohl is a 6-foot center for them and she'll be tough to keep off the boards. They will probably have a size advantage on us, but we're hoping we can take advantage of our speed and quickness in transition. We're hoping our pressure on defense will make an impact on them, and wear them down as the game goes on."
With the Panthers on an uptick of optimism and the Buccaneers trying to shake off a heartbreaking loss, Friday night's contest might be more competitive than last year's game at Grand Haven Fieldhouse.
Grand Haven defeated West Ottawa 50-29 on Jan. 17, 2017, but the Panthers nearly pulled off an upset at home in the rematch before the Buccaneers escaped with a 35-28 road win on Feb. 14, 2017.
LAKERS TRAVEL DOWN M-45
With a clear-cut favorite on the boys' side of the O-K Blue in Grand Rapids Catholic Central and a mosh pit of contenders on the girls' side, every game counts for the title-hungry Laker squads.
Both the boys and girls Spring Lake squads took losses to the Cougars in their conference openers, putting them behind the eight ball from the start. Tuesday, Bill Core's boys made short work of Sparta to pull back to an even 1-1 record, while Cavin Mohrhardt's staged another attempt at a late rally, watching their game-winning, half-court heave rim out at the buzzer.
The Falcons of Allendale are next on the chopping block, this time on the road for both teams. This is a must-win for the Laker girls if they want to keep pace with the top of the league, while the boys can't spare any losses as they chase down a likely undefeated campaign for Catholic Central. Let's take a closer look at both matchups with the Falcons.
For the boys, the East should be a quick one. The Lakers made short work of the Falcons last season, taking wins in both matchups, 60-50 and 65-47. Those Allendale teams featured a few high-volume scorers that won't be present this time around.
"Last year they had what we had been calling their big three for three years," Core said. "They averaged about 97 percent of their points last season, and they graduated. They are a young team, extremely well coached, and have a big center in the middle."
That big center, Mason Vredeveld, is Allendale's lone returner from their 12-11, district champion team last year. Joining him in the starting lineup is a slew of young players coming to grips with the varsity game.
"Vredeveld is a nice player, about 6-6 or 6-7 and a force in the middle," Core said. "Other than that, they have about six sophomores up. It is a young team who has struggled on the scoreboard so far.
Regardless of age or skill, Allendale head coach Joe Modderman will have the Falcons ready to fight in his seventh year at the helm.
"Motterman played at Iowa State and Grand Valley, while their assistant coach Tim Kizner coached at Lake Superior State. They have a fine coaching staff that is dealing with a lot of youthfulness. Now, it is a Friday night at home for them, so I'm sure they will be excited and ready to play."
The Lakers' meteoric rise to the top of the conference since their induction just two seasons ago, along with their repeated trips to the state quarterfinals has painted a target on Spring Lake's back, one that Core is making sure his team is aware of.
"With us beating CC in the regional last season, everyone has an eye on Spring Lake now," he said. "Then, everyone saw that score from last Friday and are saying, ‘Holy cow, Spring Lake lost by 40, we don't lose by 40, we can beat these guys,' it gave everyone in the conference a little shot of confidence going in."
Add to that a unique schedule rotation fluke where every conference opponent precedes their Spring Lake matchup with a bye, means the Lakers will have their work cut out for them in the O-K Blue this season.
Tip-off for the boys is set for 7:30 at Allendale High School.
The Spring Lake girls team fell to 2-6 on the year and 0-2 in O-K Blue play Tuesday with a one-point loss to Sparta on the road. After trailing by nine points with three minutes left to play a late blocking call and missed buzzer beater cost the Lakers their first conference victory of the season.
Spring Lake played a similar set against Catholic Central in their conference opener, trailing by nine with five minutes left, clawing back to a four-point deficit before tumbling at the finish line.
All that, paired with Allendale's 0-7 record so far this season, is to say the Laker girls are due for a victory. The Falcons have failed to break 20 points in four of their seven games and topped out with 32 against NorthPointe Christian on Dec. 5.
That being said, Allendale will trot out an experienced lineup come Friday, featuring returning senior starters Taylor Kulikamp, Brenna Bastien and Isabella Reister and junior returning varsity players Taylor Adams and Jolie Groeneveld. Led by first-year head coach Joel Brose, they are eager to avenge a 0-12 conference campaign last season and could break out at any moment.
The Lakers have been relying on the hot shooting of Linsey Paggeot, the lockdown defense of Madelyn Nelson and the imposing post presence of Jenna Core and Madeline Zenas, while sophomore point guard Phoebe Saunders is rounding into form leading the offense. If everyone can put their individually impressive skills on the court at once before the closing minutes of the game, Spring Lake could be an imposing presence in the conference.
Tip-off at Allendale is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday.
FRUITPORT TRAVELS TO KENOWA HILLS
The Fruitport boys and girls basketball teams take on Kenowa Hills in an O-K Black Conference doubleheader Friday night.
The Fruitport boys squad is coming off a tough road loss to Mona Shores on Tuesday. The Trojans held a narrow lead at halftime, but were outscored 43-32 in the second half and ultimately fell to the Sailors, 62-54.
Kenowa Hills is 4-4 on the season and 1-1 in league play. The Knights were routed by the Muskegon Big Reds on Tuesday by a score of 78-36 but recorded a 51-37 road win over Reeths-Puffer last week.
Fruitport will only go as far as their senior leaders, Cam Oleen and Aric Stewart, carry them. If they can get high-level production from their star players and some contributions from the supporting cast, the Trojans could come away with an impressive road win.
The Fruitport girls basketball team is hoping to record their first conference win of the season and snap their current six-game losing streak. The Trojans have been outscored 106-28 in their last two contests against Muskegon and Mona Shores and will need to find some offensive stability in order to turn the tide on their season.
Kenowa Hills has had its own share of struggles on the young season with a 1-6 overall record and a 0-2 mark in the O-K Black.
If Fruitport can find some early success on offense, they could carry that momentum forward to a much-needed streak-snapping win.
WMC TAKES ON ORCHARD VIEW
The Western Michigan Christian basketball teams will travel across town to Orchard View in a Lakes Eight doubleheader Friday night.
The Warrior boys will look to surpass the .500 mark on the season after a 3-3 start. After recording conference wins over Manistee (62-37) and Muskegon Catholic Central (46-43), WMC fell to Muskegon Heights Academy, 62-47.
The loss put the Warriors in a second-place tie with MCC and one game behind Ludington, who is currently 3-0 in conference play.
Much like WMC, the Orchard View Cardinals are floating around the .500 mark for the season at 3-4. Unfortunately for the Orchard View, three of their four losses were to league opponents, putting them in the cellar of the standings.
The Cardinals lost to Ludington (48-37), Manistee (62-60) and Muskegon Catholic Central (57-44) so far this conference season, but should be entering Friday's contest with plenty of confidence following a 70-41 win over Hesperia on Tuesday.
The WMC girls are also in good spirits after recording a 52-30 win over Fruitport Calvary Christian on Tuesday.
The Warriors improved to 7-1 on the season and are 3-0 in league play. Senior center Aubrey Goorman is coming off an All-State season last winter and is already putting herself in a good position to repeat the honor.
Against Fruitport Calvary, Goorman scored 20 points in a variety of ways. The talented 6-footer drove the lane on the fast break for a score, recorded an up-and-under move in the post and knocked down a 3-pointer, as well.
The team has also been getting steady production from Megan and Madison Heiss, Anna Sytsema and Jenna Houskamp.
Orchard View is at the opposite end of the conference spectrum at 0-7 overall and 0-3 in the Lakes Eight. The team is yet to reach the 30-point mark in any game this season and has failed to reach 20 points in all but two contests.
The Warriors look like heavy favorites to continue their win streak as they prepare for a conference showdown with Ludington next week.