By Dave Hart

WHITEHALL – At least one Whitehall basketball player believes his team may be good enough to win the West Michigan Conference title this season, perhaps without suffering a loss.

The Vikings took their first step toward that lofty goal on Thursday, opening the season with a resounding 75-47 victory over neighborhood rival Montague.

Dayton Cole slams home one of his four dunks on the night for Whitehall. Photo/Leo Valdez

The big win provided a surge of confidence for Whitehall’s 6-6 senior Dayton Cole, who weighs over 200 pounds. He gave a pretty good demonstration of why league opponents should be concerned, scoring a game-high 28 points, including four thunderous dunks in the second half.

After the game Cole discussed the possibility of winning every league game.

“We are capable of a lot this season,” Cole said. “We are trying to go undefeated in the conference and by the looks of it right now, we should be able to.”

Whitehall Coach Nate Aardema expressed appreciation for Cole’s performance, but was not ready to predict that his team will go through the tough conference schedule unscathed.

“I am really proud of him (Cole),” Aardema said. “This summer he did whatever he could to get some work in, and did not miss any workouts. He is an explosive kid.

“As a team we have the advantage of experience. You want to play to your potential, but it is really hard to go undefeated.”

Whitehall needed a little time to shake off the rust after not playing a game in more than 11 months.

The Vikings only scored 12 points in the first quarter and 16 in the second, totaling 28 at halftime. But Whitehall came out of the halftime locker room with a sudden burst of energy, leading to 47 second-half points.

Whitehall’s No. 1 Red Watson tries to split through Montague’s No. 32 Colton Blankstrom and Isaiah Atchison. Photo/Leo Valdez

“Our pace early made the difference,” Aardema said. “We made it a point to play a lot of kids and we wore them down with our depth. Tired bodies make turnovers, and we kept playing and forced a few more mistakes.”

The Vikings had a slim 12-10 advantage after the opening quarter. Cole scored six points during the first while Casey Lownds added three.

The contest remained close during the second quarter, with Whitehall leading by as many as seven points at 19-12, before Montague had a 6-0 run to cut its deficit to 19-18.

But Whitehall closed out the first half strong, scoring the last nine points of the second quarter, including a three-point basket by Lownds with three seconds left, followed by a steal and layup by Andrew Durbin as time expired.

The Vikings had a 28-18 advantage at halftime with Cole leading the squad with 12 first-half points.

Whitehall broke the game open with a 25-15 advantage in the third quarter and took a 53-33 lead into the fourth.

Cole had eight points during the third period, including a couple of highlight reel dunks, while Addison Bluhm and Evan Mikkelson each had four points.

Whitehall added another 22 points in the fourth quarter while allowing just 14. Cole had eight fourth quarter points while Jakarris Wiggers had five.

Bluhm finished with 13 points for the Vikings while Lownds had 10. Whitehall had 10 different players score at least a point.

The Wildcats, who are now 1-1 overall on the season, were led by Drew Collins with 15 points while Colton Blankstrom added 10.

“We didn’t play very well, and they played better than we did,” said Montague Coach Dave Osborne. “We have a young team and we are learning.”