James Cooper III scores 33 points, leading Oakridge past Whitehall in B semifinals

By Dave Hart

MUSKEGON TOWNSHIP – Extra preparation can sometimes pay off in big games.LSJ Logo incert

Oakridge senior standout James Cooper III, who according to his coach has been struggling lately, spent extra time in the gym earlier Wednesday, then stretched in the locker room prior to the Eagles’ game against Whitehall while his teammates watched the early game.

The hard work paid off. Cooper poured in 33 points to lead Oakridge to a 58-45 upset of the West Michigan Conference co-champion Vikings  in Class B district semifinal action at Orchard View High School.

James Cooper III gets the blocked shot for Oakridge. Photo/Sherry Wahr

James Cooper III gets the blocked shot for Oakridge. Photo/Sherry Wahr

“We came out strong and moved the ball around and I caught fire during the third,” Cooper said after the game. “I went to the school early and shot a lot and stretched during the Spring Lake-Coopersville game.

“Getting to the finals means a lot because we haven’t won in like 20 years.”

The Eagles, who haven’t won a district championship since 1995, will play Coopersville on Friday for the title at Orchard View.

Oakridge, which finished third in the highly competitive West Michigan Conference, improved to 16-5 on the season.

“Today we did a better job taking care of the ball,” said Oakridge Coach Tracy Ruel, whose team lost both games against Whitehall during the regular season. “It’s a big win for us, coming back from after the two losses to Whitehall.

“This was our redemption game, this was our payback game, and we get out there and took care of it.”

The Eagles jumped out to a 13-4 lead after the first quarter. Brady Luttrull had six first- quarter points for Oakridge while Robert Taylor chipped in with four.

Oakridge led by as many as 13 points during the second quarter. Whitehall fought back and trailed 20-15 with 2:30 left, but the Eagles recovered and led 26-19 at halftime.

Cooper caught fire in the third quarter, scoring 17 of his team’s 19 points and giving Oakridge a comfortable 45-33 lead at the third buzzer.

The Eagles opened the final quarter with a 6-0 run and led by as many as 18 points before securing the victory.

Nate Wahr drives to the basket for Oakridge. Photo/Sherry Wahr

Nate Wahr drives to the basket for Oakridge. Photo/Sherry Wahr

Luttrull finished with eight points and Nate Wahr added seven for Oakridge.’

Whitehall Coach Nate Aardema was disappointed by philosophical after the game.

“I don’t buy into ‘it’s hard to beat somebody three times,’” said Aardema, whose team finished the season with a 17-5 record. “We will take the wins that we got, they were just super prepared tonight.”

The Vikings were led by John Spofford with 10 points while CJ Watson added eight and Connor Boyd chipped in with six.

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