By Tom Westerholm
MONTAGUE–The first trophy created to commemorate the rivalry between Montague and Whitehall boys basketball broke almost immediately.
Whitehall coach Christian Subdon and Montague coach Dave Osborne collaborated together to come up with the concept, mimicking the annual Battle for the Bell rivalry game in football. A student who attended both schools put together a plaque, which was given to Whitehall when the Vikings beat the Wildcats last year.
The plaque didn’t last long.
“I’m pretty sure we broke it right away,” Whitehall sophomore Camden Thompson said on Thursday. “We walked in there like, ‘Oh great, the trophy is broken. Who did it?’ And nobody answered.”
Thompson insists that he doesn’t know who broke it (and also insists he isn’t covering up for a friend). In either case, aluminum pieces from the broken plaque were taken and re-worked to make up the new trophy – a massive standalone piece which Whitehall hoisted with enthusiasm after their 84-49 victory over their rivals on Thursday.
“It’s always fun to play those guys,” Thompson said. “Huge crowd. It’s just fun. Especially when they add a trophy into it, it just makes it 10 times funner.”
Thompson had a big evening, pouring in 26 points on 9-for-13 shooting and 2-for-3 from behind the arc, while tallying 15 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks. He was the catalyst of a balanced Whitehall attack that finished 14-for-26 from 3-point range.
“I didn’t know he had 26,” Subdon said. “My favorite part about it is that he did it within the offense, and he controlled the game in other portions of the game. I thought he had maybe 15, not because he didn’t do special things, but because every time we seemingly got a fast break, he was the one passing to the guy or he was the one with the rebound.
“That’s just what he does, and that’s what makes him special.”
Montague held serve with Whitehall for most of the first quarter before the Vikings went on a 7-2 run to push their lead to 18-11. The Wildcats battled back and trailed just 20-17 halfway through the second quarter after senior Owen Petersen and junior Paul Olson converted back-to-back layups.
Then Thompson buried a 3-pointer, and Whitehall junior Ca’mar Ready scored a layup in transition. Petersen buried a 3-pointer for Montague, but the Wildcats appeared to let go of the rope as Whitehall finished the half on a 12-4 run that pushed their lead to 47-34.
“I have a team that’s a very emotional team,” Montague coach David Osborne said. “Their emotions are up, we’re playing great. When we get down, we struggle. I guess that’s the main thing.”
Montague held on as the second half began, and junior Owen Raeth’s layup with 5:50 remaining cut the Whitehall advantage to 42-30. But the Vikings went on an 8-0 run that pushed the advantage to 20, and after the four-minute mark in the third quarter, the Wildcats never trimmed the advantage back into the teens. A 10-3 run to end the third quarter pushed Whitehall’s lead to 62-35, and a barrage of 3-pointers to open the fourth ballooned the advantage as high as 75-37 before both coaches emptied their benches for the final minutes.
Thompson credited Whitehall’s bench in helping the Vikings prepare for the Montague press.
“I feel like we already knew what was going to happen if they came out in that 1-2-2 press,” Thompson said. “We just had ways to get through it, and everything we practiced just worked. We were hitting 3s and everything.”
As a team, Montague shot just 2-for-9 from 3-point range and turned the ball over 18 times. Petersen scored 11 points, while senior DaCarri Williams added nine points and three assists. Senior Braeden Johnston added four points and six rebounds.
The loss was Montague’s second in a row after the Wildcats fell to Shelby on Tuesday. Osborne said they may have overlooked Shelby in anticipation of Thursday’s game.
“They just want to win,” Osborne said. “The rivalry does play a little bit into it, but they just want to win and work really hard, and they do work hard. Of course, you don’t ever want to lose to your rival, but when you make as many mistakes as we made, and credit to Whitehall. They capitalized on those. They are a good basketball team, they are playing well right now, and we had a tough time tonight.”
“It just sucks to lose by that much to a rival,” Raeth said. “Just wish we played better.”
Whitehall, meanwhile, supplemented Thompson’s big night with 14 points from Jack Houtteman, 13 from Ready, and 10 from D.J. Jamison. Houtteman shot 4-for-6 from deep, while Ready was 3-for-4.
“I mean heck, when I’ve got people to trust, it gets a lot easier,” Thompson said. “When they can trust me to get the rebound, that’s a lot too. So, I can just dish it out. They trust me, I trust them. It’s just a nice little process there.”
With the loss, Montague fell to 9-7 overall and 5-3 in the conference.
“We’re still a work in progress,” Osborne said. “They are high school kids, and we are still working really hard to get better.”
Whitehall, meanwhile, improved to 12-5 overall and 6-1 in the conference. The new and improved trophy is nice, but the Vikings have bigger goals.
“Our schedule has prepared us for this stretch,” Subdon said. “We have to take care of business on Tuesday, and then we have the conference leader Ludington on Friday at their place. So, we’re excited for the opportunity.”