Hopkins rallies past Plainwell in district opener
When the Hopkins boys’ basketball team traveled to Otsego for an opening-round Class B district game against Plainwell on Monday, March 5, it served as a homecoming of sorts for first-year Viking coach Jake Jewett.
And a happy homecoming it was.
Jewett, who spent the previous eight seasons coaching in the Otsego program, guided his squad to the 63-43 win over the Trojans.
Hopkins was slated to play Allegan in a district semifinal on Wednesday, March 7. The winner is scheduled to compete for the district championship against either Otsego or Wayland at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 9, at Otsego.
“This was fun,” Jewett said. “I love this gym. I really enjoyed my time coaching in Otsego and I have a lot of great memories here. And my guys were really excited for me when they found out districts would be here.
“But just like I told them, this isn’t about me. This is all about those guys and all the work they’ve put in during this season. I’m just so proud of them.”
That pride goes beyond the results of this game.
“Since day one last summer, these guys have bought into everything we’ve been telling them,” said Jewett, who still teaches at Otsego Middle School. “I told them we were going to build a culture in our program. We focus on the little things. If we do that, then the score and the wins and losses take care of themselves.”
The Vikings, who improved to 12-9, have already guaranteed themselves a winning record for the first time in a decade.
“This team is battle-tested,” Jewett said. “We play in a tough conference (the OK Silver), where you’re playing teams like Godwin Heights and Calvin Christian and Kelloggsville every night. There really are no off nights. So for us to have a winning record for the first time in 10 years really says something about this team.”
The game against Plainwell was a rematch of a regular-season showdown that saw Hopkins drop a 11-point decision to the Trojans back in January.
In that game, the Vikings fell behind by 14 points in the first quarter and never recovered.
This time, Hopkins remained close throughout the first half, trailing 15-12 after one quarter and 27-25 at halftime.
After falling behind 36-29 following a 3-pointer from Plainwell’s Evan Finch with 5:00 left in the third quarter, Jewett called a timeout to rally his troops. And rally the Vikings did, responding with an 8-0 run that culminated with a steal-turned-dunk by Hunter Lewellyn to give Hopkins its first lead at 37-36.
“That was Hunter’s first dunk and it came at a critical time,” Jewett said. “It gave us the lead and really got us even more pumped up.”
Plainwell briefly retook the lead at 38-37 on a basket by Ryan Topp until a triple by Josh Sapp gave the lead back to the Vikings, who held a 45-41 edge heading to the final frame.
And that’s when Hopkins really pulled away, forcing turnovers on the first four Plainwell possessions of the fourth quarter and turning those turnovers into eight points. Tyler Zomerlei and Nolan Smith each scored three of those points.
“We always preach defense first,” Jewett said. “We use our defense to create offense, and that’s what we did in the fourth quarter.”
The Trojans didn’t score their lone bucket of the fourth quarter until Zak TerMeer scored with 4:28 left to play.
Colin Weber led a balanced Hopkins scoring attack with 12 points, while Zomerlei and Sapp joined him in double figures with 11 and 10, respectively. Smith added nine points and Drew Weber chipped in with eight.
“That’s the way we’ve been all season,” Jewett said. “We don’t have one guy who’s going to score a bunch of points. Everybody contributes.”
Finch led Plainwell with 15 points, followed by Luke Morrell with 10 and Isaac Davis with eight.