Local Sports Journal
The Whitehall boys basketball program pulled off the upset it was looking for on Friday night in a West Michigan Conference matchup with Shelby. The Vikings held on to deliver the Tigers their first loss of the season, 57-54.
Matt Russell was the player of the night for Whitehall (9-3, 8-2) as he worked inside to systematically take down the Tigers with strong post play and a solid performance at the free throw line. Russell finished with a game-high 23 points, had 11 rebounds and shot 11 of 13 from the line.
“Matt played like a beast,” said Whitehall coach Nate Aardema. “When you’re a big guy, you have to be patient getting position. He kept working and jockeying for position, had to work really hard in the post, but we swung it from side to side to find him.”
Whitehall worked to limit Shelby’s transition game and it showed. The Vikings took a 33-22 lead into half time off of a patient offense that worked to find Russell down low.
“We did a great job in transition for most of the night,” said Aardema. “We forced them to work at half court and that was key for us. They are a deadly team in transition.”
Despite a 15-point Whitehall lead in the fourth quarter, Shelby came roaring back with deep 3-pointers and solid free throw shooting.
Caleb Anderson led the Shelby comeback with eight of his 13 points in the fourth. Anderson almost sent the game into overtime with a shot from half court that went off the front of the rim just as time expired.
Matt Rohen played a key role for Whitehall as he stepped up in the third quarter with seven of his 14 points. The Vikings built a 46-32 lead to finish the third. Rohen also had four assists in the game.
Patrick Johnson finished with nine points and was 3 of 4 shooting from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. As a team, Whitehall shot 9 of 12 from the free throw line in the fourth.
Shelby’s Andrew Beckman finished with 11 points and Devin Mussell added nine points. The Tigers were minus point guard Jason Beckman who was out with a deep bruise he suffered in Shelby’s matchup with Whitehall this past Saturday.
“For us to get a win over Shelby is a testament to our kids for the hard work they’ve done in the off season,” said Aardema. “Shelby is a really quality team with or without Beckman. It’s a great win four our kids and program.”