Tigers upend Wildcats in district final
WAYLAND—Josh Holman has vivid memories of the introductory meeting he held with players after being named head coach of the Allegan girls’ basketball team prior to the 2015-16 season.
“I told them we were going to create a culture in our program,” Holman said. “A winning culture. And I told them we were going to be competing for Wolverine Conference and district championships, and it would be sooner rather than later.”
And how did the players react?
“They looked at me like I was crazy,” Holman said with a chuckle.
Holman doesn’t seem so crazy now.
Leading Wayland by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter, the Tigers withstood a late charge by the Wildcats to hold on for the 54-48 victory in a Class B district title game on Friday, March 2.
It was the first district championship for Allegan in nearly three decades.
“I did some research, to see how long it’s been since Allegan won a district title,” Holman said. “The last one was in 1989.”
In other words, this is the kind of thing that doesn’t happen all the time and Holman hopes his players will cherish the memory.
“This is the kind of thing these girls are going to look back and remember for the rest of their lives,” Holman said. “I’m so proud of them. They’ve put in so much work and have done everything I’ve asked of them. This was the result of that hard work and their belief in themselves and each other.”
While the Tigers may have believed in their ability to win the district title, they were far from the favorite to do so. Among the other teams competing in the district were OK Silver champion Hopkins, Wolverine Conference North champ Otsego and Wolverine Conference North runner-up Plainwell.
But the Tigers (10-12) upset Hopkins in the semifinals, while Otsego—which upended Plainwell in an opening-round game—found itself on the wrong end of an upset against Wayland (6-16) in a semifinal.
“Realistically, we weren’t supposed to be in this game and neither was Wayland,” Holman said. “But that’s why you play the games. We knew we were capable of playing better than we did in the regular season and Wayland is a much better team that their record shows. They play in a tough conference and have some really good players.”
One of those really good players for Wayland is senior Sam Nieuwkoop, who scored a game-best 27 points. Sixteen of those points came in the final quarter, helping the Wildcats narrow what had been a 17-point deficit at 48-31 to six points.
But Allegan sophomore Alison Bishop did her part to make sure Allegan’s lead never completely disappeared, as she scored 11 points in the fourth quarter. She finished with 19 points to match senior Delanie Nahikian for team-high honors.
Nahikian was a sophomore during Holman’s first season with Allegan. Prior to being forced to the bench after picking up her second foul in the second quarter, Nahikian scored 10 first-half points to help Allegan build a 27-17 halftime lead.
“Delanie and Alison had big games for us, but this was a team effort, just like we did throughout the season,” Holman said. “We had a lot of players step up in different ways. It seems like every game someone else makes a contribution and has a big impact for us. Tonight, Alison and Delanie led the way.”
Senior Antonette Ware added nine points in the win.
For Wayland, Parrish Hudson and Stephanie Ainsworth went for six points each, while Abby Omness chipped in with five points.
It its semifinal win over Hopkins, the Tigers used a 21-6 edge in the fourth quarter to earn the 59-45 comeback win.
Bishop had a monster game with 31 points, eight rebounds, there steals and three assists.
“Alison was outstanding,” Holman said. “But I still can’t speak enough about what a total team effort this was.”
Ware went for 10 points, nine rebounds and five steals, while Nevada Henrickson had nine points and eight rebounds.
For Hopkins, Megan Schultz went for 16, while Olivia Sebright and Brandalyn Helderop added nine each.