**ARTICLE BY JOSH LONGSTRETH**
**Photo by Chris Robotham**
Regional 3 hosted by Muskegon Mona Shores
Tuesday 5:30 @ Mona Shores Sailor Center — Rockford (23-1) VS Jenison (9-16)
The Rams didn’t waste any time waiting to play the tough teams this season. Rockford had a brutal schedule in the opening month but the Rams came out of it nearly unscathed with the lone loss being to an undefeated West Catholic team by just seven points. The loss didn’t have any effect on Rockford as they picked up right where they left off. They’ve cruised ever since and have continued to be one of the best in the state. That included wins over East Kentwood (2), Hudsonville (2), West Ottawa (2), and Haslett (undefeated at the time). The Rams have been rolling all season and they don’t expect that to end any time soon. Rockford cruised through their district and took the district championship by knocking off a very talented Lowell team.
You wouldn’t think a team that has already been nearly unbeatable would continue to get better throughout the season, but the Rams have. Two of their biggest contributors are younger players in Anna Wypych (Sophomore) and Sienna Wolfe (Freshman). But Rockford has some experience with uber-talented players in Emily Obenauf, Grace Lyons and Alyssa Wypych. Their offense is potent and hard to slow down. The defense gets it done and limits opposing offenses.
Enter the Jenison Wildcats. The season has gone a bit differently for the Wildcats as things haven’t always been easy for them. They would start 3-3 on the season but the three losses came to some of the tougher teams on their schedule and they were games that got out of hand in a hurry. Jenison would start to stay in those games down the road, however, as they really started to compete at a high level with some potent teams. They didn’t particularly end the season how they wanted but like they say, come March anything can happen. And it did. Jenison would put together a 3-game winning streak that would have them holding a District Title last week. Taking down a solid Hudsonville team, you could call the Cats a bit of a ‘Cinderella Story’.
Jenison is a team that does have experience. Led by stud point guard Terin Maynard, if the Wildcats can have role players continue to play well they’ll have a shot at making some more memories. The Wildcats can score with anyone but they’ll need to get it done defensively as they’re facing a Rockford team that can fill it up in a hurry.
They’re no stranger to each other. Coming from the same conference, these two met earlier in the season twice in which the Rams cruised in each meeting. Expect Jenison to keep it closer in this game as they are playing some solid basketball right now on both sides of the ball. It just might not be enough, however. This is a loaded Rockford team that can run you out of the gym in a hurry. They’re one of the best in the state and it doesn’t look like they plan on leaving any time soon.
The winner moves on with a chance at a Regional title on Thursday at 7:00 and play the winner of the Byron Center and Muskegon matchup.
Tuesday 7:00 @ Mona Shores Sailor Center — Byron Center (21-3) VS Muskegon (17-7)
When you talk about schedules you have to take a look at the start of the season for the Byron Center Bulldogs. Nearly every team they played in that early part had successful seasons and three of those teams still have their seasons alive. Since that early start, Byron Center has done nothing but roll over teams aside from just a few games that they were tested. It’s a team that can jump on you in a hurry. The Bulldogs have a program that they expect to make deep runs every season and this year has been no different, but recent years they haven’t left with a Regional title in tow.
This year might be the year that changes. Byron Center has an offense that hasn’t been contained all year led by standout McKenna Ferguson. The defense can shut you down as well. They head into Regionals playing some of their best basketball of the season as they cruised past East Grand Rapids and East Kentwood in Districts. Now, they look to do more damage and keep their season alive in a loaded Regional.
Muskegon would go through the ringer early this season. Although they started just 2-3 on the season, the Lady Reds played four teams during that time that are still playing this week. And they hung around in just about all of them. They followed that up when the calendar flipped to 2023 with grabbing some vital wins which included a 5-game win streak. They now ride their biggest streak of the year of 6 and come in cruising past Kenowa Hills that landed them a District title.
The Lady Big Reds offense has been clicking on all cylinders for much of the year. They are a young team that has some big talent. Experienced player Ty’veonna Davis has played a big role in being the calming influence on the group, and she backs it up with some solid play. The defense can give up points so that will be key here if Muskegon plans on keeping their season alive. Can Davis continue to get help from the young standouts is the question heading in. There is no denying, they look like they can.
This is one that you might want to put on a seatbelt for. It should be one of the best we see in any regional there is in 2023. Byron Center is going to try and jump on the Big Reds early in hopes to grab the momentum early. If Muskegon can withstand that this one will be tight throughout. Expect this one to be back and forth, but the Bulldogs control the game late and cruise into the Regional final. Look for McKenna Ferguson to have one of her best games of the season.
The winner had a chance to play Thursday at 7:00 when they take on the winner of Rockford and Jenison.
Team to watch: Byron Center
No surprise here and it won’t be a surprise if the Bulldogs are holding a Regional trophy on Thursday. They have the ability to take down a very good Rockford team if it comes to it.
The Rams are the clear-cut favorite heading in to Regional 3. They have cruised most of the season. It’s a talented group and has the make-up of a championship caliber team. Unless someone can trade basket for basket with them this is a team with too much firepower, Rockford takes it.
Regional 11 hosted by Comstock Park
Tuesday 5:30 @ Comstock Park High School — Allendale (12-13) VS Grand Rapids Christian (18-5)
Allendale struggled the first part of the season but they were in most of the games they lost. As 2023 began the Falcons began to pick up some signature wins, one that was vital was over Hopkins in late January. Since the win over Hopkins, Allendale has put together their best basketball of the season by going 7-3 over their last ten. There are key points in the season when teams look back at a moment that changed their season, and that might have been the one for them.
The Falcons have a tough team every year and this one is no different. Allendale was able to grab their first District title since 2010 in a win over Spring Lake in the District final. It’s a young group that continues to get better as the season goes on and it looks like what many expected is finally coming to fruition. It’s an offense that can be up and down with their youth but their best shot at coming out of this Regional is their defense. There’s been just a few games in which the Falcons didn’t have their defense going but they have gotten back to it in a hurry.
The Grand Rapids Christian Eagles have known there way around these parts this time of year. Year after year the Eagles find themselves with solid teams that make some noise come tournament time. Christian found a signature win early that seemed to have the Eagles flying high before getting an eye opener against Byron Center. After that the Eagles came to play against teams that can give you fits. They would find a stretch of games where they were able to knock off East Grand Rapids and Lowell, before losing a nail-biter to Catholic Central. The Eagles now come in riding an 8-game win streak and they have a District title to show for it.
It’s a team that has been solid on both sides of the ball for much of the year. They have a solid mix of experience and young talent but are they a team that has what it takes to keep their season going is the question. They’ll have an opportunity now to show just that and they’re battle tested to say the least.
The winner will play for a chance at a Regional title on Thursday at 7:00. They’ll face the winner of the Portland and West Catholic matchup.
Tuesday 7:00 @ Comstock Park High School — Portland (15-8) VS Grand Rapids West Catholic (23-0)
Not many teams have had the success that the Portland Raiders have had in Michigan high school basketball the past few seasons. After a state title in 2021, the Raiders followed it up with another deep run last season. Now they have a group that continues to improve at the right time. They would drop a couple battles early in their season, one to a very good Chelsea team. A tough stretch in January had Portland down a bit but they would put together a their longest winning streak of the season shortly after to get back on track. They now come into the Regional playing some of their best basketball by going 7-3 down the stretch.
The Raiders began the season as a very young group that is now putting it all together. They have some big time talent with their younger players led by Freshman Lilly Thelen. But you don’t have to look far to find the experienced leader of the group in Malia Thelen. Portland has found some footing offensively as they have been able to push the tempo more as the season has gone on. It’s a Raider defense that has the ability to suffocate you defensively. This is a team that has the ability to make this Regional very interesting.
If you can put together a team that has every single piece of a championship squad, you’re likely going to take a look at the West Catholic Falcons. They’ve had a share of their own success over the last few years and have been able to make deep tournament runs in each. But they are still on the quest for that State Championship. They were tested early in the season by a brutal schedule, in which they dominated nearly each of them. And let’s be honest, they haven’t looked back since as they continue to get better late in the season. It’s a group that clearly has their sight on the biggest of goals. Getting to Breslin.
They have some vital experience and players that have been in the big moments. They’re led by Toledo commit Cadence Dykstra who can get it done at every level on the floor. Rebecca Tuttle is another who can score at different levels to give defenses fits. Emma Tuttle provides some size and can get it done in every facet. Ellie Bies is a first-team all conference player. Reese Polega provides length and is another first-team member. Elisha Dykstra is an uber-talented Sophomore who is a first-teamer. Paige Seely-London is a Sophomore that can fill it up from deep. The roster is as good as it gets and they play team-first basketball.
Portland comes in playing some great basketball right now and at the right time. They’re going to need every bit of that against West Catholic. The Raiders have a ton of talent as well. But this isn’t their time yet. The Falcons are loaded and there has been no one that has been able to slow down their offense to this point. Defensively they can grind you down as well. Never say never, but West Catholic is just going to be too much here.
The winner plays for a right at the Regional title on Thursday against the winner of the Allendale and Grand Rapids Christian matchup. It will be on the line Thursday at 7:00 inside Comstock Park High School.
Team to watch: Grand Rapids Christian
The Eagles had a shot at West Catholic earlier in the season and hung with the Falcons until late. They were one of the few teams that would challenge West Catholic. They’ll have another shot and if they can take the game late it’ll put the Falcons in a position they haven’t been in all year.
Favorite: West Catholic
It’s a tough spot for Portland and although they’re a team that you can really like based on their talent, it’s just not their year. The Falcons have been dominant all season. Expect them to try and put pressure on the younger Raiders players. This is an ultra talented squad that will pay off their season.
Regional 19 hosted by Shelby
Tuesday 5:30 @ Shelby High School — Hart (21-3) VS Grand Rapids NorthPointe (17-7)
The Hart Pirates have had quite the run over the past few years in becoming one of the most successful programs you can find in Michigan girls basketball. Hart got off to a solid start this year despite close back to back losses to Kent City and Holland Christian. It didn’t take long for the Pirates to get back on track as they would rattle off 14 wins in a row against some solid basketball teams. Many of which Hart controlled throughout. This is a program that knows a little about making a deep run this time of year.
Hart’s offense has been one of the best on the girls side this year as there hasn’t been any team that has been able to slow them down. Having a solid defense came help and be for you know it if you get in trouble with them on both sides, they will have you down double digits in a hurry. They’re a team that is led by a three-headed monster in Abby Hicks, Aspen Boutell and Sophomore Addi Hovey. They have other players that can knock down big shots as well. This is a team that is tough to deal with and can stay with any team in the state.
It has been a tough few years for the Mustangs of NorthPointe Christian. The Mustangs are in the midst of one of their best seasons to date. Things began a little rocky as they would have three losses in the first month of the season. But not every loss tells the sotry as NorthPointe only lost them by a total of ten points (two by just one-point). They would pick up a signature win over Calvin Christian after going toe to toe with a solid Belding team. It really came together after that for them and they went on a 9-1 run to end the season. Now they have a District title in toe and looking for more.
The Mustangs are a fairly young team with having just three seniors on the roster. But they’re talented and that has shown throughout the year. They can score with anyone on the offensive side and their defense is just as good. They’re grown now after going through a tough District.
When you look at a matchup like this, you can’t help but be beyond excited. This should be one of the games to watch this week. Both teams have what it takes to continue playing deep into March. Can the Mustangs slow the trio of Boutell, Hovey and Hicks down is the big questions here. They have the ability to, but it’s just going to happen here. That trio will put in big games as they have a trip to Breslin firm on their mind. NorthPointe will need to limit them and not let other players hurt them.
The winner will have a shot at a Regional title Thursday night when they take on the winner of the Saugatuck and Kent City matchup.
Tuesday 7:00 @ Shelby High School — Saugatuck (15-9) VS Kent City (20-4)
There might not be a hotter team right now than the Saugatuck Trailblazers. They come in on a 6-game win streak and they controlled most of those games since the tip. A difficult schedule to begin the season was big for Saugatuck as they came away with a 3-2 start. This is a team that has been in every game this season so they have the ability to keep things tight. They are now over the District title hump (their first since 2004). While they’re hear, they’ll looking for some more hardware and they might just do that by taking home a Regional title.
They’re a group that has some experience and it has been paying off. Don’t be fooled though, there’s some young talent there led by sophomore Kennedy Gustafson who finished with 18 points and 28 rebounds in the District Championship. The Trailblazers offense has been solid all year and their defense has been able to keep them in games. This is a team riding on a lot of momentum right now.
Enter a program than has culture that expects to compete at a high level every year in the Kent City Eagles. When you look at the stalwarts that are near the top every year in Michigan girls basketball, you always take a look at Kent City. Now here they are again boasting another 20-win season. The month of December would start off pretty tough for them as lost their first two of three games. But picking up wins over Hart and NorthPointe to turn the calendar had them off and running again. They would ride on the wave10-game win streak before a they ran into a very solid Big Rapids team. No team would get in their way to set up another matchup with the Cardinals but Big Rapids would take it. It could be a blessing in disguise for them because, especially this time of year.
Every team you look at this time of year, you look at the make-up of their roster. The Eagles are another team that has that led by Northwood commit Lexie Bowers and Madelyn Geers. They have some tremendous size at the guard spots and no matter the five on the floor, they have the ability to knock down shots. This is another group that intends on staying in the dance for the entirety.
Saugatuck will really have to slow the pace down and limit the Eagles shooting. They’ll need to control the boards on each end to stay in this one. The Eagles just have too much firepower and they will be hungry as they have one goal in mind and that’s getting to Breslin. Kent City takes this one.
A Regional title shot is on the line as whoever comes out of this one will play the winner of Hart and NorthPointe on Thursday.
Team to watch: Hart
The Pirates have the ability to make an even deeper run than a Regional title, which shows what a gauntlet this Regional is. Don’t be surprised if their trio keeps them rolling.
Favorite: Kent City
A lot has changed since the early matchup between Kent City and Hart. Expect that to be the matchup here and will it ever be one to keep an eye on. If you aren’t rooting for either, sit back and watch a great basketball game because this one will be all it’s cracked up to be. The Eagles will take a close contest by knocking down some big shots late.