TK sweeps varsity contests at Battle of Barry County
Thornapple Kellogg students celebrate with the Battle of Barry County trophy after their school swept the three varsity contests (wrestling, girls' basketball and boys' basketball) against the Saxons at Hastings High School Friday evening. (Photo by Brett Bremer)
Freshmen provided more than their fair of excitement, but it was a senior who strode out of the locker room with the Battle of Barry County trophy clutched in his arms at Hastings High School Friday night.
The Thornapple Kellogg varsity boys’ basketball team finished off the Trojans’ fourth championship in four years at the Battle of Barry County by scoring a 65-58 victory over the host Saxons Friday. The TK boys' basketball victory followed a 37-30 win by the TK girls' basketball team and a 52-18 win by the TK wrestling team in the annual varsity triple-header between the Trojans and Saxons. TK also came out on top in the student-section competition, with wins in the girls' tug-of-war, the mascot scooter race, the sleeping bag chariot race and a sumo wrestling competition.
The Saxons’ lone victory of the evening came in the boys’ tug-of-war.
Nate Jansma, one of the captains on the TK varsity boys’ basketball team and one of the leaders of the Trozone spirit section any time it is a classmates’ turn on the court, held the trophy at the end of the night after being in the center of the celebration with his classmates immediately following the Trojan victory.
“He started the last game and tonight we started Alex (Bonnema). I wanted to get (Jansma) in early,” TK head coach Josh Thaler said. “Alex really was playing well defensively and offensively taking care of the basketball. I kind of turned to (Jansma) and said 'sorry, I was going to get you in during this first quarter,' and he said, 'no, team first.'
“All the guys realize, he is one of our captains. He acts like if on the floor and off the floor and every time in between, offseason and in-season. The one senior we have, he is acting like a senior.”
A pair of TK alumni earned their first varsity coaching wins for the Trojans – Thaler and varsity wrestling coach Dayne Fletke.
Fletke led a Trojan wrestling team that sent six freshmen to the mat against the Saxons. Zackary Gibson, Jackson Curtis, Kyron Zoet, Austin Chivis and Jake Middleton were the freshmen who won their first varsity wrestling match for TK Friday. The one freshmen who came up short for TK, Andrew Middleton, came up short against Saxon freshman Robby Slaughter in their 135-pound match which Slaughter won 7-3. In all, freshmen won half of the 14 wrestling bouts on the evening with Payton Miller also scoring a victory for the Saxons.
Another freshman, the Saxons' Macy Winegar, was one of the stars of the varsity girls' basketball game going 6-of-8 from behind the three-point line and leading all scorers with 21 points in a losing effort.
The Saxon student section was more than ready for Winegar's performance with “FOR 3!!!” signs spread throughout the section. In a late addition to the event, most of the Saxon and Trojan student-sections donned purple, rather than orange and black or blue and gold, in honor of TK junior Lydia Cole who represents both communities on the Delton Kellogg-Thornapple Kellogg-Hastings varsity girls' swimming and diving team. The prognosis for Cole's recover from cancer took a turn for the worse in recent weeks, but she continues to battle as doctors search for new treatments.
The girls' basketball game was the tightest of the three varsity competitions on the evening. With its three-point barrage, the Hastings team had a lead of as many as nine points late in the first half. The Saxons went into the break up seven, but TK went on a 7-0 run in the first five minutes of the second half to pull even.
A three-pointer by Winegar pushed the Saxon lead back to 28-23 early in the fourth quarter, but TK closed out the game on a 14-2 run powered by outstanding work on the offensive glass.
“TK jumps in and out of a number of different complex defenses,” Hastings head coach Mike Engle said. “Some of our younger players struggled being able to adapt midstream in the game. As a result, we did not sub as deep into our bench as we would like to. When we got into the fourth quarter, playing with a smaller line-up impacted our players as fatigue set in, which led to us not rebounding as well as we had been.”
TK took its first lead since the opening minutes of the game, 30-28, on a three-pointer by junior forward Haven Beyer with 5:49 to go in the fourth quarter. A Saxon turnover followed, and Beyer was fired up to earn a trip to the free throw line where she knocked down two shots to extend her team's lead to four a minute later.
“It feels really good. Hastings is such a big game for us, our whole team is so proud of each other for getting through this,” Beyer said. “Even though we were down in the first half we pulled it together and we just played as a team in the second half.
“I was very excited (hitting the go-ahead three),” she added. “I kind of screamed, 'let's go!' It was very exciting for me to get those points that were huge points for our team to get us into the lead.”
Junior guard Paige VanStee led TK with 15 points, scoring seven in the fourth quarter. Beyer had five points and Carmen Beemer and Gracie DeWent had four each for TK.
Josey Nickels had four points for Hastings and Carly Warner had five. Winegar hit five of her six three-pointers in the first half.
TK head coach Ross Lambitz said he warned his girls before the contest of Winegar's shooting talents, but thought maybe a few times girls took for granted that they were close enough to her when they weren't really close enough.
He was pleased with the work Claudia Wilkinson, Corrin Replogle, Gracie DeWent and Mo Sprague did of face-guarding Winegar in the second half.
The Saxons were trying to do the same thing to VanStee on the other end of the floor, and did a good job of pestering her once she tried to get to the basket. Eventually, the Trojan junior broke through. The entire team's work around the basket on the boards was what really salvaged the evening for the TK girls.
“They really crashed hard and kept it high and went and tried to finish as best they could after,” Lambitz said. “That was big, just making a lot of those little plays and getting towards the rim not settling for shots and trying to get stuff going towards the rim I think made a big difference for us in the second half.”
It was a back-and-forth varsity boys' basketball game as well, at least until back-to-back three-pointers by Thornapple Kellogg junior back-court mates Cole Shoobridge and Nolan Dahley turned a two-point lead into an eight-point lead in the first 40 seconds of the fourth quarter. The TK boys went on to a 65-58 win.
The Trojans had an 11-point lead early in the second quarter, but Hastings battled all the way back to lead by as many as five points in the third.
“It was a fun one,” coach Thaler said. “I'm happy for the guys. Tuesday (a lopsided loss to Holland Christian) obviously was kind of a wake-up to varsity basketball from JV basketball. That got us ready for tonight I think, the intensity in the building. I'm just happy for the guys to get that first win.
“It has been a while since they all played together, since middle school, they're a group that loves to play together. They just have to keep building that chemistry together that they have kind of lost after having a few guys getting pulled up. It is good to see them all playing together.”
Shoobridge hit four three-pointers in the ballgame and led all scorers with 29 points while handling most of the point guard duties for the Trojans. Thaler said Shoobridge's size, he's at least 6-7, allows him to handle pressure without much trouble, and that Shoobridge is more comfortable with the ball in his hands than playing off the ball like he did a year ago as a sophomore on the varsity.
Shoobridge hit a three-pointer with a defender right on him at the buzzer at the end of the first half, putting TK up 32-27 at the time.
Dahley finished with 17 points for the Trojans and junior center Austin VanElst had seven points while dealing with foul trouble throughout the night.
Junior center Evan Eastman powered the Saxons early on and finished with a team-high 17 points. He had eight of the Saxons' first 16 points.
“We said at halftime, we said at every timeout, we have got to get the ball in the post more, work it inside-out. Eastman is a pretty good passer. He didn't need to tonight,” Hastings head coach Rich Long said. “He was going to work on the post, especially when VanElst had four fouls.”
Hastings also got 14 points from senior guard Elijah Smith and ten from junior guard Kirby Beck. Thaler said his team's defense was especially focused on Beck after he scored 22 in the Battle for Barry County a year ago. Carter Cappon had nine points, going five-of-five at the free throw line.
Coach Long thought his team had a few turnovers that he could chalk up to it being the Saxons' first game of the season.
A lack of varsity experience didn't slow down the TK wrestlers much Friday. The meet opened with freshman Jake Middleton scoring an 11-2 win over the Saxons' Tyler Oliver in the 189-pound match and the Trojans pushed their lead to 22-0 through the first four weight classes.
TK freshmen Gibson at 103 pounds and Chivis at 140 had pins. Curtis, another freshman, and junior Ryan Holmes who was also wrestling his first varsity match Friday, scored wins for the Trojans against the Saxons' two regional qualifiers from a year ago. Curtis pulled out a 3-2 victory over Jonathan Giro'n in the 125-pound match, moving in front with a reversal with 80 seconds to go in the third period and then riding out Giro'n the rest of the way. Holmes closed out the match for TK by pinning Terry Dull 2:41 into their 171-pound match.
“I just kind of went out there and did my best really,” Holmes said. “I didn't think about him being a regional qualifier and just did my best.
“This is my first match in like three years. I was nervous the whole way through. I was excited to go out there.”
Seniors Adam Bush and Cater West had first-period pins for TK at 215 pounds and 285 pounds respectively, and sophomore 103-pounder Ashton Corson added a pin in the third period of his match with Saxon freshman Zach Chipman.
Shane Dillon got the first points for the Saxon team with a 10-6 win over TK's Hunter Pitsch at 112 pounds. Slaughter had the decision for the Saxons at 135 pounds and Hastings got its other six points thanks to a pin from senior Gabe Trick in the 145-pound match.
Zoet earned a 5-1 win over the Saxons' Mason Denton at 130 pounds, and Chivis' pin at 140 pounds sealed the team victory for TK with four weight classes yet to go.
Sophomore Arianit Idrizi scored a pin for TK at 152 pounds, and Saxon freshman Miller got those six points back for his team with a pin at 160.
“It is exciting. It's nerve-wracking,” Fletke said. “You never know which way it is going to go. A lot of freshmen in the line-up came through. They were ready to wrestle tonight. Upperclassmen, like Adam Bush and Ryan Holmes, they pulled out some good wins, some close wins for us.”
“I couldn't ask for much more to go right,” he added. “It was on our side. They were ready to wrestle. They made sure they capitalized when opportunities came their way.”