The final race was over, and it was official: West Ottawa had once again won the OK Red Conference title. The entire team cheered in elation after defeating OK Red rivals and claiming the conference title. The swim team continued its dominant season by securing the title, scoring 467 in the conference meet, compared to Rockford’s 405 and Hudsonville’s 340. Jr. Khadin Soto and Sr. Julian Barrios had outstanding times in the meet, Soto with 56.86 and Barrios with 56.80, both in the 100 breaststroke. However, the team knew the season was not finished; the most important meet of the season was still looming.
The swim team has found recent success in OK Red competition, and will now seek a state title. Recently, the WO Swim team has beaten OK Red Rivals Grand Haven, Hudsonville, and Rockford. Also, the team has had some big invitational wins, including the EGR Pioneer Classic and the Zeeland Invitational. WO is currently ranked second in the state behind Ann Arbor Skyline and just ahead of Birmingham Brother Rice. Earlier this season, WO narrowly beat Ann Arbor Skyline 102-83 on January 13 and defeated Birmingham Brother Rice 111-72 that same day.
On Friday, March 9, the swim team will compete in the preliminary meet at the Eastern Michigan University Natatorium. On Saturday, March 10, WO will compete in the state meet, with a chance to win the state championship. WO will compete against some of the other top teams in the state, including Ann Arbor Skyline, Birmingham Brother Rice, and Saline. Earlier this season, WO beat both Skyline and Brother Rice, so we certainly have a chance to take the title.
The key to WO’s success has been victories in the relays, which is definitely a strength. According to Jr. Derek Maas, relays were important to win conference and will be key to winning state. “On our team, we have really good relays this season, winning all three at the conference meet and [we] plan on winning a couple if not all three at the state meet,” Maas said.
West Ottawa has some of the best relays times of the 2017-18 season, with the best time in the state in the 200 medley relay, the second best time in the 200 free relay, and the fourth best 400 free relay time in the state. In the 200 medley relay, WO’s best time is 1:33.77, which is narrowly faster than Skyline’s 1:34.53 and Brother Rice’s 1:34.95. In the 200 free relay, WO also has a faster time than Skyline and Brother Rice: WO with 1:26.06, Skyline with 1:28.33, and Brother RIce with 1:27.66. However, Skyline holds a better time than WO in the 400 free relay. Skyline’s best time is 2:42.09, a bit faster than WO’s 3:10.49, which narrowly beats Brother Rice’s 3:10.88.
WO can certainly compete with the best in the state and will look to take the state title Saturday.
Sr. Matt Moraw was very unsure of what the future held for him and the rest of his team on Saturday, March 2, during the regional final game. Grandville was holding a 1-0 lead going into the end of the 3rd period. However, a faceoff in the offensive zone changed that. When the puck hit the ice, Sr. Mike Walsh made a smooth pass to Holland Christian Sr. Will Houskamp, who placed a shot in the back of the net, sending the game to overtime. At that point, the Panthers knew the game was theirs. They went on to win the game 2-1, which meant that they were regional champions.
Having the best season in school history, the hockey team is a local miracle on ice. So far, the team has played unbelievably well season with a 19-7-1 record. Moraw attributes the success of the team to consistency and responsibility. “It’s making sure we are all…playing the game we’ve played all year,” Moraw said. He explained that their methods have served them well up to this point, so the team doesn’t need to fix something that’s already working.
Their road to the quarterfinals featured a shutout against Rockford, beating Byron Center in double overtime, and overtaking Grandville in overtime to take the regional championship title. Their gaze is now focused on the state tournament.
On Wednesday, March 7 at 7:00, the Panthers face off against the Traverse City West Titans at the Ewigleben Ice Arena at Ferris State University. For only $6, students can sign up for a ticket and bus ride to the game.
WO matches up well with TC West. Both have defeated three of their common opponents: Rockford, Reeths Puffer, and Bay Area Reps. On one hand, TC West needed overtime to beat Reeths Puffer 5-4 last week, while the Panthers obliterated Reeths Puffer in regulation with an 8-2 final. However, WO had a wider spread against Sault Ste Marie in a 3-1 loss. The Titans managed to keep it closer, but ended up losing 2-1. In the long run, these teams look like a good matchup for one another.
If the Panthers win on Wednesday, they will play on March 9 at 5:00 at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth. If the Panthers come out on top, the state finals will be held at USA Hockey Arena on Saturday, March 10 at 6:00.
As Liam Cavanaugh advanced up the court with the ball in hand, he glanced over his right shoulder and saw Xavier Wade. As Cavanaugh approached the hoop, he lobbed the ball in the air in Wade’s direction. The ball was perfectly placed and reached Wade at the peak of his jump, then, Wade slammed the ball through the basket. The perfect alley-oop.
So far this season, the basketball team has met expectations, winning 18 of their 20 games. They went 11-1 in OK Red Conference play, clinching their 3rd conference title in 3 years. The Panthers went on a solid midseason run of 14 wins in a row. Earlier in the season, the Panthers defeated the Flint Carman-Ainsworth team that was ranked 6th in the state. This was a statement win for the Panthers. The Panthers finished their season on a 5 game win streak.
After a win last night against the Zeeland West Dux, the Panthers will head to Hudsonville on Wednesday to face the Grandville Bulldogs. WO has beaten Grandville two times this season, winning once 60-33, and a second time 46-43 in a closely-contested battle. Grandville Sr. Ethan Rycenga averages 14 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, 3.6 assists per game, and 2 steals per game. West Ottawa will have to limit Rycenga’s scoring and box him out well on rebounds in order to find success in this game. Jr. Freddy Baker led the Bulldogs in scoring both games against the Panthers scoring 11 points in one game and 16 in the next. The Panthers need to watch out for him due to his scoring success against the Panthers.
Grandville will enter this game with a 12-8 overall record and a 7-5 conference record. If the Panthers get past Grandville, looming on the other side of the bracket is a solid Jenison Wildcat team sitting on a 15-5 overall record. Leading the Wildcats to success is Jacob Boonyasith, averaging 24 points per game and shooting 55% from the floor. 6’3 Boonyasith is an offensive force that is hard to match defensively.
Sr. Danny DeForest has been on the team for two seasons now, seeing two very similar years of success. DeForest says that the key to success is playing as a team, and having solid chemistry. “We focus on the team aspect. We don’t have one star, we have a bunch of really talented players. It’s our chemistry, we have been playing together for a really long time, and just working together, that’s what gets it done every night.”