Hamilton comes up short against G.R. Catholic Central
HAMILTON—There were tears aplenty after Hamilton’s record-setting 23-2 girls’ basketball season came to a screeching halt on Thursday, March 9.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team,” Hamilton coach Dan VanHekken said after the Hawkeyes suffered a 35-26 loss to Grand Rapids Catholic Central in a Class B regional final. “This team accomplished so much and can hold their heads high.”
Only one other Hamilton team—the 1996 outfit—went as deep into the state tourney as the current squad.
The seventh-ranked Hawkeyes ended their season on their home court in front of a packed house.
“Our fans are the best,” said Hamilton guard Joslyn Bronkhorst.
Cougar coach Trevor Hinshaw said two of the keys to his team’s third consecutive regional championship was preventing Bronkhorst (six points) and Bria Schrotenboer (seven points) from lighting up the scoreboard.
“”We feel very fortunate to come out on top against one of the best teams we played all year,” Hinshaw said. “Our defense was phenomenal.”
“That’s the best defensive team we played all season,” he said.
The Hawkeyes played right with the Cougars for the majority of the game.
“I wouldn’t say they were better than us for the whole game,” VanHekken said. “Except for about three minutes it was pretty even.”
Grand Rapids Catholic Central locked up the game from the free throw line.
Hinshaw indicated that his team’s 24th win in 25 games felt extra good.
“To come into their building and to play like we did against a very good team in front of a hostile crowd like this was very special,” he said.
The Cougars played without their leading scorer, Sophia Karasinski, who sustained a season-ending injury at the conclusion of the regular season.
“Our depth showed tonight,” Hinshaw said.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central jumped out to 8-0 lead before Hamilton’s Franesha Robinson drove hard to the basket for two of her team-high eight points with two minutes and 17 seconds remaining in the first period.
With the home crowd urging them on, the Hawkeyes were only down 8-6 after one quarter of play, 20-19 at the intermission.
Despite the back-and-forth game Hamilton only led twice in the game. The first time was in the second stanza at 15-14 on a pretty turn around jumper by Schrotenboer and the second time was on a bucket from Robinson to make it 19-18.
Six Hamilton seniors—Robinson, Brooklyn Groenheide (two points), Bronkhorst, Teagan Knapp, Annaka Ediger (three points) and Daria Wedeven—played their final game for the black and gold Hawkeyes.
“These girls left a legacy here at Hamilton,” VanHekken said. “(They are) just phenomenal kids who worked for everything they got on and off the court.”
Hamilton earned its place in the regional final thanks to a 55-24 win over Muskegon Oakridge in the semifinals on Tuesday, March 7. That was the same Oakridge team that knocked the Hawkeyes out of regional play last season.
Defense was the key for the win.
“We played great team defense,” VanHekken said.
Every one of Hamilton's players that took to the court had to because of the talent of Oakridge sophomore Sophia Wiard, who led her team in scoring with 15 points.
“She's a very good player who can not only score but handles the ball very well,” said Bronkhorst, who poured in a game-high 19 points. Most of her points came from long distance.
With Wiard leading the way, the 21-3 season ending Eagles flew out to a 7-1 lead on the way to taking a 13-12 lead into the second period.
Back-to-back steals for two points by Buresh and Wolfram and a left-handed hook by Wolfram put the home team on top for good at 18-17.