With just under a month until the completion of the regular season, the OK Conference still has three undefeated teams (Grand Rapids Christian, Muskegon and Godwin Heights), but perhaps the most intriguing team has suffered just one loss thus far. The West Ottawa Panthers (14-1, 8-0 OK Red) have rattled off eleven consecutive wins after an eight point loss to Grand Rapids Christian back in December. In a league that is typically so competitive from top to bottom, it is amazing that the Panthers have not lost a game in the OK Red after completing three-fourths of their schedule. More impressive has to be the fact that they have won these games by an average of 20.5 points, as they have defeated every opponent by at least eleven.
The Panthers are led by senior Jake VanTubbergen, who is committed to Grand Valley State, but they are a team that has size, length and experience across the board. Coach Steve Windemuller has brought stout defensive discipline to his bunch as well, as they have held their opponents to an average of 44 points per game, including five points to forty points or below.
This past week, they made Hudsonville and Rockford their latest OK Red conquests, completing the season sweep of both schools. On Tuesday at home, they handled the Eagles by a final of 63-45. VanTubbergen led the Panthers as he had 17 points, a majority of which were in the paint. His opportunities were larger in the second half as the Eagles had to key in on Drew Pederson, who scored all ten of his points in the first sixteen minutes. The third star for the Panthers was Xavier Wade, who scored twelve points and led the aggressive defense in the third quarter that helped put this one out of reach.
On Friday, it was much of the same story for West Ottawa as Rockford came to town. Wade spearheaded the full-court pressure and this defensive strategy helped the Panthers gain momentum quickly. On the offensive side, the junior finished with a game-high 19 points. VanTubbergen had fifteen points in this victory. For the second straight night, Coach Windemuller must have pushed the right buttons out of the locker room as the third quarter was the key for West Ottawa as outscored Rockford 19-2.
With these wins, the Panthers sit at 14-1 and 8-0 in the OK Red. They hold a two-game lead with four games to play in the OK Red, and they could clinch a share of the league title with a win over second place Grand Haven, when they travel up the lakeshore to take on the Buccaneers on Tuesday (7:00). This bunch has the make to make some noise and try to snap Hudsonville’s streak of dominance in their district, and potentially get their rematch with Grand Rapids Christian in the regional finals.