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Team effort gets Trojans through first tourney test

TK senior guard Gracie DeWent fires a pass over Ottawa Hills defender Aryanna Bailey during the second half of the Trojans win over the Bengals in their Division 1 District opener in Grand Rapids Monday. (Photo by Brett Bremer)

Brett Bremer

Sports Editor

It was pure joy on the faces and in the voices of the seven or eight Trojans who typically play the most minutes as they were lined up on the bench for the final four and a half minutes at Ottawa Hills Monday.

The Thornapple Kellogg varsity girls' basketball (12-9) team earned a spot in last night's Division 1 District Semifinals against East Kentwood (18-3) at Caledonia High School by scoring a 56-37 win over the host Bengals (3-18) in Grand Rapids to open the state tournament.

Senior point guard Corrin Replogle was one of the last to join the TK regulars on the bench, but not before she made jaws drop and drew wide-eyed cheers by beating a couple defenders down the left side of the lane, performing a sick crossover and flinging a pass back up to the free throw line where teammate Mo Sprague was waiting to drain a jumper.

“Everyone loves a good crossover,” TK junior forward Tyah Jefferson said with a smile after watching from the bench. “Crossovers are so good, especially when you break someone's ankles and they go to the ground. It definitely gets everyone excited.”

Soon after Replogle was in the line on the bench with Carmen Beemer, Paige VanStee, Haven Beyer, Jefferson, Claudia Wilkinson and Hailey Campbell cheering on the TK reserves.

“I love to get everyone into the game,” Jefferson said. “Everyone does great even when they're on and off the bench. Our team chemistry is just amazing. We're all friends, so when those girls get to play I couldn't ask for a better feeling.”

Sprague came off the bench to really spark the Trojans in the second quarter. TK led the Bengals 16-13 after eight minutes, and then went on a 17-6 run in the second half to take control of the ballgame.

“We were mixing it up a little (defensively),” TK head coach Ross Lambitz said. “We were in or 1-3-1 and (Sprague) plays the top of that and just does a good job of getting after the ball and hounding it. When she is getting up and putting that kind of pressure on the ball everybody else can kind of play a free safety. She gets those tips and everyone else can really make plays and go get the ball.”

Campbell and Beyer came off the bench in the third quarter and each hit a three to help TK push its lead to 20 points for the first time in the ballgame.

“Right down the line, that is what I was most proud of was just the team effort,” Lambitz said. “Everybody who came in was ready to go. I think that was a big difference that when we had some girls on the court that maybe were a little tired we could bring somebody else in who was fresh, who knew the game plan and knew what we were going to do. We didn't have to let up on anything. A couple times just getting those fresh people that is what sparked a run too, just getting someone who was itching to get in there and ready to go.”

TK had nine difference girls score in the ballgame led by junior guard Paige VanStee who had 21 points – right above her season average. Wilkinson had eight points and Jefferson seven. Campbell finished with five points and Replogle, Beyer and Sprague had four apiece.

Ottawa Hills got 12 points from senior forward Ariel Covington, and six each from Shadayah Jefferson, Naomi Robinson and India Whiteside.

East Grand Rapids (19-1), ranked seventh in the state in Division 1, closed out the regular season with 17 consecutive wins. That run ended with victories over Wyoming and TK as the Pioneers put together an undefeated OK Gold Conference Championship season. EGR was slated to open the postseason taking on Wyoming in the other semifinal match-up at Caledonia last night. The district final is planned for 7 p.m. Friday.

East Kentwood scored a 50-43 win over Byron Center in its opening round match-up Monday, while the host Fighting Scots were edged by Wyoming 42-40 in their district opener Monday at Caledonia High School.

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