WHITEHALL – Whitehall’s aim this basketball season is to be excellent within the West Michigan Convention.
Dayton Cole and the Vikings actually received off on the correct foot of their season opener Thursday night time in opposition to their rivals from throughout the lake. Cole completed 12-for-12 from the ground en path to a game-high 28 factors as an skilled Whitehall squad overpowered a junior-laden Montague group, 75-47.
Cole’s excellent capturing proportion was actually aided by the 6-foot-6, 235-pounder’s 4 two-handed energy dunks, which offered jolts of vitality for the Vikings. The returning all-conference performer went 4-of-6 from the free-throw line and he added 5 rebounds.
“I used to be actually glad. This was my first sport again,” stated Cole, who had three dunks whole final season, when Whitehall went 10-11 and completed in the course of the league standings. “We’ve waited, how lengthy, 11 months. Yeah, it’s been a very long time. We have been supposed to start out 4 months in the past, three months in the past, so I’m glad to be within the health club.”
Highschool contact winter sports activities have been pushed again a pair months due to coronavirus restrictions and govt orders. Contact practices have been lastly allowed this week and the season began in earnest. Now it’s a race to the end in a condensed schedule resembling an NBA grind with extra video games than observe slots.
Whitehall, which is searching for its first convention title since 2016-17, began a bit slowly Thursday. However as soon as the Vikings received rolling, the Wildcats (1-1, 1-1 WMC) couldn’t sustain.
Whitehall held a 12-10 edge after one quarter, however the Vikings created some separation within the second, capped by a five-point run within the remaining seconds of the half. Senior Casey Lownds made a 3-pointer, then senior Andrew Durbin stole the inbounds and transformed a layup on the buzzer for a 28-18 lead on the break.
The Vikings broke it open within the third with a 25-15 scoring benefit, highlighted by one other late-in-the-quarter 3 by Lownds.
“We now have a younger staff. We now have two seniors and a freshman that’s beginning proper now,” Montague coach Dave Osborne stated. “We’ve received a protracted solution to go clearly, and so they’re a veteran staff, returning eight or 9 children. They only outplayed us and needed it extra.”
Montague has solely two seniors on its roster. Considered one of them is Drew Collins, star quarterback for the varsity’s state-title soccer staff, who didn’t play basketball final season however has led the Wildcats in scoring of their first two video games. The 6-3 Collins completed with 15 factors and 4 rebounds Thursday. Isaiah Atchison, a 6-6 freshman, added 10 factors, three assists, two steals and two rebounds.
It actually didn’t assist the Wildcats that the sparkplug of their staff, 6-foot junior guard Tate Stine, was out with a knee damage suffered 45 minutes earlier than Tuesday’s season-opening win over Hart.
Osborne was not making excuses, but it surely does make a distinction when a younger staff is lacking its go-to participant.
“It’s powerful. That doesn’t change the end result, wouldn’t have modified the rating, however when you might have your No. 1 participant go down like that and he’s the one which your offense runs by and he makes a variety of our defensive calls, it’s an adjustment,” Osborne stated.
On the flip facet, Whitehall’s roster options eight seniors, together with three-year varsity gamers Durbin, Evan Mikkelsen and Addison Bluhm.
Bluhm was second within the scoring checklist behind Cole Thursday night time with 13 factors, plus the 5-10 guard had three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Lownds completed with 10 factors.
Mikkelsen, a 5-11 guard, had solely a pair buckets, however he swiped just a few steals. His affect goes effectively past the stat sheet, in line with Whitehall coach Nate Aardema, who considers him a pacesetter of this “nice group” of Vikings.
“(Mikkelsen) has been the epitome of a captain. He’s been main Zoom conferences, he’s been main exercises and organizing stuff,” Aardema stated.
“I stole a factor from Ken George (former Forest Hills Central head coach and present Hope Faculty assistant), the captain’s continuum: Do you present up early? Do you keep late? Are you encouraging others? Are you making an attempt to assist individuals get higher? Are you excited for observe? That’s Evan, and I don’t know if I’ve had a child that’s like been that devoted and led and he’s a three-year child and when you might have guys like that main, it’s contagious and different guys are leaping on board.”
Durbin, who goes by the nickname “Texas,” is one other a kind of affect gamers for Whitehall whose stats don’t inform the complete story. Like Mikkelsen, Durbin scored simply 4 factors, however the 6-2 ahead offered a carry 4 rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Durbin’s presence alone is a lift for the Vikings. He was hobbled throughout his shortened season final yr after he suffered a critical ankle damage as QB of Whitehall’s soccer staff.
Aardema acknowledged that going unbeaten within the West Michigan Convention is an bold aim. He stated the Vikings being at their greatest each night time is “a heck of a psychological problem.”
But when any staff within the league have been able to doing it this season, then it’d be Whitehall with its mix of expertise, expertise, chemistry, management and work ethic.
The Vikings’ nonleague slate ought to assist put together them effectively. They host Reeths-Puffer this Saturday and now have contests scheduled on the highway in opposition to Mona Shores, Ludington and Western Michigan Christian.
“It is a bonus for us having a lot expertise,” Aardema stated. “We performed slightly zone tonight and I feel we labored on it for about 10 minutes, however the children that I had on the market performed a lot basketball and a lot basketball collectively that they’re fairly snug with a variety of issues and should not take as a lot observe time for a few of these guys to get snug.”