With three local teams holding state rankings on the eve of the district tournament, there is potential for a few deep runs in the playoffs, but tough district matchups across the board could act as a roadblock or confidence boost.
Take a closer look at what lies waiting in the district tournament for local girls basketball teams.
Grand Haven — District 9
Where: Muskegon Reeths-Puffer
Favorite: Grand Haven
Dark horse: Muskegon
The Bucs’ path to a 2019 district title is cut and dry: beat Muskegon. Both Grand Haven (17-3) and Muskegon (15-4) are head and shoulders above their fellow District 9 competitors: Reeths-Puffer (11-7), Grand Rapids Union (9-10) Mona Shores (5-14), and Kenowa Hills (4-14).
Both the Bucs and the Big Reds have earned state rankings at points this season and are poised to make a deep run into the Big Dance. But, one team will have to head home before the music gets going, as they meet in the first round. Meanwhile, Grand Rapids Union and Kenowa Hills and their 13 combined wins each were awarded first-round byes.
The Bucs have struggled in the district tournament in recent years. Since winning the 2013 state championship, no Grand Haven girls basketball team has made it past the district semifinals, falling to Mona Shores twice (2014, 2015), Reeths-Puffer twice (2016, 2017) and the Big Reds last season.
Typically, Grand Haven and Muskegon meet in the regular season for a non-conference contest. It’s been dead-even in their last six meetings with both teams winning three. Muskegon took both meetings last year, winning 37-34 in the regular season and 41-31 is the playoffs. This year’s meeting was a casualty of winter weather, canceled during a slew of snow days and never rescheduled.
The key for Grand Haven tonight will be slowing down Miss Basketball finalist Alyza Winston. The 5-7 senior has committed to Michigan State, earning a spot with averages of 26.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.4 steals per game. Her three-point shooting prowess forces attention on the outside, but she is at her best driving to the hoop.
The two powerhouse programs will meet tonight at Reeths-Puffer with tip-off set for 6 p.m.
Spring Lake and Fruitport — District 43
Dark horse: Spring Lake
District 43 features another high-profile opening round game as Oakridge (17-3) takes on Whitehall (17-2). While both team’s regular seasons deserve some extra time in the playoffs, one will go home and the winner will see Spring Lake (11-9) in the semifinals following their bye.
Fruitport (3-19) will have their work cut out for them in the first round as they take on Montague (11-9), with the winner facing off with Orchard View (3-13) in the semifinals.
Oakridge and Whitehall split their regular-season series, as they both occupy the West Michigan Conference. The Vikings took the first in a 67-56 triple-overtime thriller, while the Eagles took the second, 42-29.
Spring Lake hasn’t seen either of the favorites this season, but there are a few overlapping results. Whitehall beat up on Montague 47-33 in their most recent meeting, but took a loss to the Wildcats in their third game of the season, 41-37. Oakridge, on the other hand, beat Montague by 20 points in their first meeting and by 43 in their most recent battle. The Lakers saw the Wildcats as recently as Feb. 18, dismissing them 44-25.
Fruitport will take on Montague in the opening round today at 7:30 p.m., while Spring Lake will wait for their test Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
West Michigan Christian — District 73
Favorite: Kent City
Dark horse: WMC
This Division 4 district tournament is a two-horse race. Kent City (16-4) brings Division 4’s No. 2-ranking into the tournament, despite dropping their final two contests of the year. Their final loss of the season came in thrilling fashion by just five points to Muskegon, showing the Eagles aren’t messing around.
The Warriors’ perennial playoff rivals will likely run uninhibited to the district finals with a first-round matchup against North Muskegon (5-15) and a semifinal game against Holton (0-18) thanks to a convenient bye.
Should WMC take care of business against Ravenna (7-12) in the semifinals, it will be another customary Warrior-Eagle matchup for the district crown.
The two schools have met in the district tournament each of the past three seasons, twice in the finals. Kent City took the 2016 title matchup with WMC answering in 2017 for an eight-point win in the finals. Last season, they met in the semifinals, where Kent City took the series lead with a 56-39 victory, going on to win district and regional championships.
Kenzie Bowers is the player to watch for. In their run to the quarterfinals last season, the now-sophomore averaged 19.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and led the Eagles in points, rebounds, steals and assists, earning her First Team All-State honors. This season, her pace has only increased. Slowing her down will be key for the Warriors.
WMC will begin their playoff run in the semifinals following a bye through the first round, taking on Ravenna at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Fruitport Calvary Christian — District 113
Where: Muskegon Catholic Central
Dark horse: None
Fruitport Calvary Christian girls basketball and district championships go together like napalm and the morning. The Eagles have torched the early rounds of the Division 4 playoffs in recent years, winning five straight and six of the last eight district titles.
It will be more of the same this year, as the District 113 field is lackluster at best. The Eagles (15-5) will face Muskegon Heights (0-16) in the semifinals and the winner of Wyoming Tri-Unity Christian (2-17) and Muskegon Catholic Central (6-13) in the finals. Barring a playoff miracle, which are admittedly frequent, FCC will march into the regional tournament without breaking a sweat.