Three full buses of students left West Ottawa High School at 4:00 and headed to Lansing Eastern High School where West Ottawa’s most successful basketball team in school history attempted to continue their state playoff run.
The gym was barn-like with expansive seating, housing the entirety of the Black Hole. East Lansing, the sixth-ranked team in the state, proved to be tough competition playing in their own city. West Ottawa got off to a slow start, but quickly gained their composure and started hitting key shots and moving the ball as they have all year. With a strong second quarter, WO led by four at half.
In the third quarter, they were leading by ten. East Lansing fought hard and tied the game up again, but West Ottawa’s defense and clutch free throw shooting proved too much to handle and eventually led them to a 58-55 victory.
The remaining barrier between West Ottawa and the state finals is Novi High School, a 2:00 matchup at the Breslin Center on Friday. Novi features many talented players that have been offered basketball scholarships. One of these players is Traveon Maddox. The 6’4” Oakland signee is lengthy, yet quick. He’s a high-flier and has thrown it down on multiple occasions. He put up 22 points against Belleville, 17 against Hartland, and 27 against Livonia Stevenson. In the regional finals, Maddox hit a clutch game-winning shot to guide his team to the quarterfinals against Belleville. He ended that game in similar fashion, netting the game-winning shot.
Trendon Hankerson led Novi in points during the Belleville game, scoring 24. The 6’2” point guard is dedicated to Northwood University. He is deceivingly quick and can drive the ball extremely well, finishing off a lot of and-ones. He can shoot the three well and scores pull-up threes with a hand in his face.
As a team, Novi underperformed early in the season. They started out 0-4 because of injuries and a suspension. Their regular season record is only 17-8, compared to West Ottawa’s impressive 22-2. But their playoff games have been stellar. In the first round, they crushed White Lake Lakeland 74-55. Then, they narrowly beat undefeated Ann Arbor Skyline. In the quarterfinals, they made a last-second shot to edge out a strong Belleville team. So, Novi will pose a formidable challenge to the West Ottawa team. But after scrimmaging Novi in the summer, West Ottawa feels confident.
“They have a couple D1 athletes. We scrimmaged them in the summer without Tyler Bosma and they won by 3 points. It came down to the wire and it was really close,” Sr. Liam Cavanaugh said. “We’re feeling really good coming into this game, though. They’re athletic, but I think with the matchups we’re going to have on defense, we should be doing really well.”
West Ottawa students can buy tickets and sit in the Black Hole if they go to the North Athletic Office by 7:15 A.M. on Thursday. Tickets for seating outside of the student section will be available for purchase as well. For those who can’t make it to the game, there will be a live stream available for purchase at this link: http://www.nfhsnetwork.com/events/mhsaa-mi/d641bc8039