Harbor senior Jack Vandermus (left) looks brings the ball into the offensive end during last Friday’s district championship game against Boyne City. (Photo by Kevin Johnston)
By Kevin Johnston
After closing out the regular season and a first round by, the Harbor Springs boys basketball team would head to Charlevoix last Wednesday to take their shot at a District Championship.
Harbor's first district matchup was against Inland Lakes and the Bulldogs came out swinging, jumping out to a 12-5 lead early in the first quarter. With two and a half minutes left in the first, the Rams big guns would find their rhythm when junior Nick Bonter and Cole Ketterer would both drop long three-pointers. Harbor would continue to battle back and finish the first quarter down by just a point.
The Rams started the second with four unanswered points to take the lead, but the Bulldogs finished the period by taking advantage of Harbor fouls and turnovers scoring nine unanswered points, taking a 30-22 lead into the half.
The halftime break was just what the Rams needed, and they came out of the locker room ready to prove they were not ready for their season to come to an end. Turning on the three point machine Harbor would score 25 in the third quarter to jump out to a 47-38 lead by the end of the period.
The fourth found Harbor in firm control as the offense continued to roll. After being up by as much as 20 the Rams would close out the win at 65-51 and earn the opportunity to advance to the district final on Friday.
"We got on the kids pretty good at half time to try to get them going and challenge them a little bit and I thought they met the challenge for the most part in the second half," said head coach Adam Wood following Wednesday's game.
By bedtime on Wednesday, the Rams knew who they would be facing in the district final on Friday and it was a team they had been unable to stop during the regular season: the Boyne City Ramblers.
When the Rams took the floor in Charlevoix on Friday night it was clear the strategy would not be to take advantage of their outside shooting skills. From the outset, Harbor was on a mission to attack the basket and it worked.
Senior Noah Erxleben found the net for the Rams first four points, all from the paint. Erxleben's classmates Jack Vandermus and Alex Williams would also find success under the basket and the Rams would be up 16-12 after one.
Winning the rebounding battles and continuing to find success under the net, Harbor went into the halftime break with a 24-22 lead. The only part of the Rams first half that had been lacking at all was their zero-for-five three point shooting.
In a reversal of Wednesday's game it would be the Ramblers that would take advantage of the halftime break to regroup.
Harbor would have the first possession of the second half, but it was Boyne that would score the first five points of the third period. The success Harbor found in the first half driving to the paint was countered as the Boyne defense flooded the paint to take away scoring opportunities.
When Harbor did get a chance at the long ball they simply were not falling the Rams way. With thirty seconds left in the third period, Cole Ketterer scored Harbor's only three-pointer of the night but it would still leave the Rams down 36-33 at the end of the quarter.
With the Boyne defense at the top of its game the Ramblers would go on to close out the night and claim the District Championship with a 52-38 win.
"We thought we would have a chance to get to the rim," said coach Wood following the loss. "We did a great job in the first half and then they really stepped it up in the second half. I have to give Boyne City credit; they ramped their defense up to another level and we couldn't match it."
"If I'm honest, from my preseason expectations to where we ended up I think we might have even exceeded where I thought we'd be," noted Wood. "We were able to win the games we were supposed to win which was something we weren't doing in the past. To finish with a winning record, not a big senior class, and having a lot of juniors that really contributed a lot of minutes I'm leaving this season with a much better feeling than we have the last couple of years. We're excited about the next couple of years."
Commenting on his senior class Wood has often remarked about leadership being one of the keys to this seasons success.
Alex Williams - "Alex has probably been our most improved player. Coming into the season and going back to last year Alex was really still learning the game. He's taken it up another notch. Like he decided his senior year he was going to give it everything he had and I couldn't be any more proud of him. He's a been a great teammate and we're going to miss him."
Skip Schorfaar - "Probably the most physical, tough player I've ever coached. Loves contact, doesn't like having fouls called and would probably fit real well in the Big 10. He's been a great teammate and he's about as coachable as anyone I've ever had and that's kind of a lost art. We're going to miss having him around our program."
Jack Vandermus - "Jack is probably one of the funniest but scrappiest players that I've ever had. On the floor he's tough, he's physical, he's strong and that's really why he became a starter for us. Probably our best defender from start to finish this year. We're going to miss that energy that he brought."
Noah Erxleben - "Since I've been here Noah has kinda been the staple of the program. The last couple of years have been tough and I know he's enjoyed this season. He's the guy that we've always looked to and he's got a lot on his shoulders. He's had to score, he's had to rebound, share the ball, guard the best player and he's done that year in and year out. Obviously we're going to miss not only his production and his leadership and everything he's brought to the program the last three years."