By Andrew Johnson
HUDSONVILLE – Both Mona Shores and Hudsonville desperately wanted a girls basketball regional championship Thursday night.
Something had to give in the end, and it didn’t go in Mona Shores’ favor.
Hudsonville took a two-point lead with a pair of free throws with 1:43 remaining, leaving the Sailors plenty of time to respond.
But Mona Shores missed a free throw and two 3-point attempts down the stretch, allowing Hudsonville to escape with a 45-44 victory in the Class A regional championship game on its home court.
Hudsonville now advances to next week’s state quarterfinals. The Sailors, champions of the tough O-K Black Conference, finished the season with a 21-4 record.
“Hudsonville is a heck of a team,” said Mona Shores Coach Brad Kurth, whose team made it a step farther in this year’s tournament after losing in the first round of regionals last season. “I thought we contained them pretty well, we held them to 44 points.
“It meant a lot to win a district championship and win a regional game on Tuesday against a great Grand Rapids Christian team. I’m really proud of the kids for being coachable and just listening this year overall.”
Hudsonville landed the first blow in the first quarter, jumping out to an 8-0 lead and forcing the Sailors to take a time out only 3:40 into the game.
But Mona Shores responded with an 8-0 run of its own, capped off by five straight points from freshman Alyza Winston.
The score was deadlocked 11-11 after one quarter.
The Sailors ended the second quarter with a 10-5 burst, led by Ryleigh Wheler’s four points, and held a 23-21 edge at halftime.
The third quarter belonged to Hudsonville, which outscored Mona Shores 15-5 to take a 36-29 lead into the fourth quarter.
But the Sailors kept fighting like they have all season. They opened the fourth quarter with a 10-0 run, capped with a triple by Winston, and led 39-36 with 5:07 remaining.
The Sailors helped their own cause with a full-court press that forced eight Hudsonville turnovers in the fourth quarter.
But Hudsonville regained the lead, 45-43, on a pair of free throws by Chloe Guingrich with 1:43 remaining.
After a Hudsonville turnover, Mona Shores’ Jordan Walker drove the ball to the middle of the key with 36.7 seconds left and drew a foul. She made the first free throw to pull the Sailors within one, but missed the second.
That was the final point Mona Shores could muster.
Hudsonville missed a free throw with 26.6 seconds remaining and Mona Shores got the ball on alternative possession after a tie-up on the rebound.
Winston dribbled the ball up court and found an open Walker on the left side of the floor coming off a screen. Walker took the pass and launched a 3-point attempt that hit the back of the rim and bounced away.
Addison Irish of Hudsonville scooped up the rebound and was fouled with 5.9 seconds remaining. Irish missed both of her free throws, leaving the Sailors one last gasp.
But a final shot from 3-point range missed the mark, sending an exuberant Hudsonville student section onto the court in celebration.
“I thought the kids came back with fire and gave it everything they had,” Kurth said. “We just missed some looks. We had every opportunity to do it and just didn’t get it done.”
Winston led all scorers with 22 points while Walker added 11 points for the Sailors.
Hudsonville was led by Guingrich with 12 points. Kasey DeSmit added 11 points, all in the second half.