FRUITPORT — The Fruitport boys basketball team hadn’t won an O-K Black conference game in four years. On Friday night, the Trojans ended that streak with a 69-61 win over Kenowa Hills.
“I’m just so happy for the group of guys that we have because we have seniors who have been in the O-K Black who have had four years of misery,” Fruitport head coach Steve Erny said. “Losing is miserable and nobody wants to lose. We make no excuses our program hasn’t been where it needs to be to compete and win. I’m happy for the group of seniors to know that we can compete, we are there. We celebrated like we won a championship but I think it was well-deserved."
“We struggled the first couple years and it feels amazing to get this win,” senior guard Marcelo Conklin said. “After the game Tuesday we came in with a lot of confidence and played the whole game like that. To get the win, it just feels amazing, it feels great.”
Conklin led the Trojans in scoring with 18 points. He was followed by Gavin Fisher who scored 16 while Luke Mitchell added 14.
Fruitport came out of the gate strong. The Trojans scored the first 10 points of the game and held Kenowa Hills scoreless until there were four minutes and 35 seconds left in the quarter. Mitchell scored eight of his 14 in the quarter. Conklin hit a corner 3-pointer as time ran out to score his seventh point of the opening quarter as Fruitport led 19-7.
“This is a group of guys that works really hard. In the past we maybe haven’t had the most committed people. We had a great summer and there was a lot of dedication and motivation over the break,” Erny said. “Their confidence comes from the fact that they know they worked really hard for this. We have players on this team that are really good.”
Conklin’s hot hand and confidence lifted the team up in the second quarter as he scored six. The Trojans narrowly outscored Kenowa Hills 16-15 in the second and went into halftime with a 35-22 lead.
“We all know we have the skill to be good, it just took a little time to put together,” Conklin said. “I think once we get the first shot to go in, that helps the momentum for our team. Once the ball goes in I think the momentum comes and the confidence comes for us."
Fisher and Conklin each scored five points in the third quarter and Fruitport extended their lead to 15. At the end of three quarters, the Trojans were ahead 51-36.
The Trojans appeared to be on their way to an easy win when they led by 16 with six minutes remaining in the game, but Kenowa Hills refused to roll over. The Knights fought back and put pressure on the Trojans with a full-court press defense.
The increased pressure and pace allowed the Knights to cut the lead to seven with 51 seconds left. Nothing came of it, however. Fisher made three free throws and Logan Manciu buried a pair to bring the game to its final score.
The Trojans move to 3-2 and 1-0 in the conference. They travel to Grand Rapids Union on Tuesday and look to pick up another conference win.
“The message has been pretty consistent and it’s basically asking if they are satisfied,” Erny said. "Their answers are a resounding no. We need to continue to look at things we can improve on.”