By Craig Beilfuss
GRANDRAPIDS—The second ranked, Division 3, Kent City Eagles outscored Western Michigan Christian 16-4 in the fourth quarter on Tuesday evening in a regional semifinal matchup at Grand Rapids Northpointe Christian to secure a 51-31 win over the Warriors.
With the win Kent City advances to the regional championship game on Thursday evening.
WMC had all of the early momentum. Taryn Preston from Kent City hit the opening bucket before the Warriors went on a 9-0 run.
Senior sensation Kyla Wiersema hit two buckets, Lexi Dagget connected on a 3-point shot and Maddie Wiersema hit a shot and the Eagles found themselves in an early deficit, coupled with leading scorer Lexie Bowers going down at the 7:14 mark with an injury. Kent City coach Aleah Holcomb was looking for a solution.
With 4:49 remaining in the quarter Holcomb decided to take a timeout and get Bowers back in the game. From that point on it was the Bowers and Maddie Geers offensive show go along with great team defense by the Eagles. Bowers, a junior, finished with a game high 20 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Geers, a sophomore finished close behind with 18 points, six rebounds and six steals.
The Eagles went on a 9-3 run to close out the quarter as Bowers hit a 3-point shot and a field goal, Geers connected on a shot as did her sister Emma Geers and Kent City was back in business, closing the Warrior lead to 12-11 after the first eight minutes.
Kent City tightened the clamps on the WMC offense in the second stanza, limiting the Warriors to just two baskets and a free throw, while Bowers scored eight points and (Maddie) Geers chipped in with six points and the Eagles held a 16-5 scoring advantage and an eight point halftime lead at 27-19.
WMC was hampered on both ends of the floor as (Kyla) Wiersema was whistled for her third personal foul.
Wiersema picked up her fourth foul in the third period and was forced to stay on the sidelines for most of the quarter. Both teams scored eight points in the quarter and Kent City took a 35-27 lead entering the fourth quarter.
“We were pretty prepared, said Kent City coach Aleah Holcomb, from a defensive standpoint on how we wanted to guard Wiersema. We watched a lot of game film and we were really focused. We wanted to pressure the guards. Emma Geers did a great job on keeping the ball out of Wiersema’s hands,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb decided it was time to put the ball in the hands of her two star guards Bowers and Geers. The Eagles ran off the first 1:35 of the final eight minutes before the Warriors offense could get their hands on the ball. Kent City was successful in running most of the time off the clock in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors managed only two baskets by Maddie Wiersema in the quarter, while Kent City made a living at the charity stripe going 9-for-10 down the stretch, with Geers hitting on 6-of-7 to go with a basket and Bowers was 4-of-4 from the free throw line and the Eagles held a 16-4 scoring margin in the final quarter to secure the 20 point win.
“Every day we work on shooting pressure free throw shooting,” said Holcomb. “In the fourth quarter that was important because we were able to extend the lead.”
“All good things come to an end,” said WMC coach Jeremy Goorman. “This was a tough pill to swallow tonight saying goodbye to Kyla, Maddie, Libby, and Haley Brueker. They were everything a coach wants in teammates. They were positive, hard working, and great basketball players.
“Unfortunately, tonight was not our night. Kent City did a tremendous job of setting the tone on defense by double teaming Kyla and pressuring our guards. Besides the first 6 minutes of the game we were never comfortable. Once we hit the end of the third quarter, Kent City went into a stall and forced us to take risks and foul. When Lexie Daggett went out in the second quarter with an injury, we lost all the momentum and never got it back,” Goorman said.
“We had 12 turnovers in the second half and that was the game right there. We needed to get quality shots up, but we could not find the offense to do it.
“Kyla battled foul trouble and was out a chunk of the third quarter. Holding her to 4 points sealed our fate. We need her to score over 20 to have a chance against a quality team like Kent City. These seniors did a wonderful job of representing WMC and we thank them for all the time and effort they invested for the team,” Goorman reflected afterwards.
Kent City will take on Grand Rapids Covenant Christian in the regional championship game on Thursday evening. Covenant Christian got by Pewano-Westphalia in the second semiregional game 37-34.
The Chargers are an independent and will bring an overall 13-7 record into the championship game. The Eagles and Covenant Christian played each other back on January 18 at Kent City with the Eagles winning 46-36.
“We won’t be over confident,” Holcomb said. “They are a much improved team and now have a great inside game. We’ll come ready to play.”
Game time on Thursday is slated for 7 p.m at Grand Rapids Northpointe Christian.
Western Michigan Christian finishes the season with an overall record of 17-5. The Warriors finished with a 9-1 record in league play and were co-champions of the Lakes 8 Activities Conference with Ludington. WMC also captured a district championship last Friday against Hart.
Maddie Wiersema led the Warrior offense with a team high 13 points and 11 rebounds.