By Andrew Johnson
But that impact, Rosema says, wouldn’t be possible without the community of Hart.
“We have so many people involved,” the coach said. “It’s been amazing to watch the growth of our basketball program. We have so many coaches and parents involved, helping us get to this point.”
The Hart girls continued their upward trajectory this season, finishing with a sparkling 19-5 record, winning their second consecutive Division 3 district championship, and coming within a few points of winning a conference title.
Rosema has now coached two of the three Hart girls basketball teams that have ever won district titles.
For his success in reviving the program, Rosema is LocalSportsJournal.com’s Division 3-4 girls basketball Coach of the Year.
“It was a fun season,” said Rosema, who added that his team had the third or fourth most wins by a Hart girls basketball team in school history. “We tried to keep winning, and winning makes everything easier. It makes the harder practices easier for the girls, and when you do have conflict, it’s easy to get over it when you have a winning record.”
The 19-win season came a year after Hart went 13-11 and advanced all the way to the regional finals in 2018-19. The Pirates were eliminated in the first round of regionals this year, but the experience the players gained last season helped produce the glowing record this time around.
“I’m fortunate, because this group of girls are hungry and want to win,” Rosema said. “They’re not happy with just a district title, which is great. They want to do more and win more.”
One impressive statistic is that the Pirates got through the entire 2019-20 season without ever losing two games in a row, a fact that had eluded Rosema.
“I haven’t thought about it really, but that’s pretty spectacular,” he said, when asked about the accomplishment. “Even when we did lose, we bounced back and refocused.”
One game that the Hart girls fell short in was a 49-46 triple-overtime loss to Montague in the regular season conference finale. Montague clinched first place in the West Michigan Conference while Hart finished runner-up, one game behind, with an 11-3 conference record.
“It was crushing,” Rosema said. “We had a week off after that game and I was worried.”
As it turned out, there was no cause for alarm, because the Pirates responded with three straight wins in districts to claim their second straight trophy.
Hart defeated LeRoy Pine River 63-46 in the first round and Shelby 42-41 in the semifinals, before cruising past Evart 50-38 in the district final at home.
“We kept reminding the girls of our goal to win a district title,” Rosema said. “We reminded them that the goal was right in front of us, and that if we didn’t come out and compete, someone will take us down.”
The Pirates knew they had to be wary in districts, because they were the underdogs a year earlier and surprised everyone by winning the title.
“We knew that other teams could do what we did when people didn’t take us seriously,” Rosema said. “We kind of took what we did last year and kept the girls focused that way.”
While the Pirates lost 51-36 to Manton in the Division 3 regional semifinals, clinching a district title at home is something Rosema hopes will be a lifetime memory for the players.
“We were at home, so it felt amazing to win,” he said. “It was great to win a district in front of fans and other students. I’ll remember it forever, and I hope the girls will too.”
Eight players were selected in a vote of area coaches to round out the Division 3-4 girls All-LSJ squad. They are Kenzie Bowers and Jenna Harrison of Kent City, Kelsey Richards and Lizzie Cammenga of Fruitport Calvary Christian, Emily Bayle of Hesperia, Taylor Folkema of Western Michigan Christian, Jayd Hovey of Hart and Kendall Zoulek of Shelby.