Late free throws sealed West Ottawa’s quarterfinal victory over East Lansing, sending the Panthers to a Friday matchup with Novi at 2:00 at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University.
The game was filled with drama, concluding when guard Nick Wehrmeyer threw the ball in the air as time expired. Each of those in attendance, along with fans listening intently back in Holland, has a unique perspective on the night.
West Ottawa Coach Steve Windemuller
“I loved all the support from our students (Black Hole) and all of the West Ottawa loyal following. It was so loud in that gym last night.
“I also loved the way we responded after every East Lansing run. We took their best punch and never wavered! I’m just happy how our fans were after the game and how excited our alumni and current players were.
“The bus ride home was pretty quiet, which means we have more business to take care of!”
East Lansing Coach Kevin Mayes
“We spent a great deal of time looking at West Ottawa footage. It was very obvious that this is a battle-tested team. They also bring a wide variety of backgrounds to the floor. You have an All-State football player in Wade. An All-State baseball player in Bosma. I am sure Wehrmeyer and Pedersen are first-team All-Conference selections. It is a very good team. At this point in the tournament, there are no bad teams left. Last night was a beautiful example of high school playoff basketball. There were over 3,000 fans packed in that gym. The environment was spectacular. The game was almost perfect. Almost? Well, we did lose.
“Playoff officiating for Class A basketball games is very minimal. I like it a lot. They let the kids play. I would be dishonest if I didn’t say the free throw disparity wasn’t frustrating. We did foul 4 times on purpose in the 4th quarter. That doesn’t make the 3 to 18 free throw count feel any better. That being said, we didn’t lose because of the free throws. We lost because of our turnovers and we left Pedersen open. We were very specific about him when we talked to our players. He was never to be left open. We were willing to let others open so that we could focus on Pedersen. We have been playing clean basketball lately. The turnovers were the bad type. It was the pressure of the defense. It was poor decision making on our part.
“West Ottawa is a great team. Great coach. Good luck to you this weekend.”
Forward Tyler Bosma
“I would say one of the most powerful moments was when we came onto the court for the jump ball and the whole crowd just erupted; it was an awesome feeling. The crowd was obviously huge and it seemed like everybody wanted to play a part in the game so they all were together and as a group, it was extra loud.”
Instructor Kevin Klassen
“I was most impressed by our intensity on defense. I was surprised how much we were able to limit what Brandon Johns was able to do for East Lansing. That defense came through late in the fourth quarter; there was a pass near the top of the key that Liam Cavanaugh intercepted with his left hand and then passed to Wade after, to head back down the court, where we ended up scoring.”
Jr. Collin Bell
“I love and hate games like that. I hate how close it was but I loved the atmosphere. But after the last couple seconds ticked off the clock, my friends and I went crazy. Just experiencing that and knowing that we’re one step closer to winning state is amazing.”
Sophomore Taylor McClure
“I was listening to the game on the radio in a car with my friends. What was cool was how much we could hear the Black Hole in the background. When we heard we had won, we were so excited, but what really got us going is the fact that the announcers said they were having trouble keeping the Black Hole off the court.”
Instructor Ken Strobel
“I was there early and watching Brandon Johns (East Lansing’s All-State player) warm up. He’s huge, and when he was shooting threes it looked effortless. He made something like seven in a row. But those were about the last confident shots he took. Our defense made him hesitant on most of his shots. He still looked really dangerous, but he never got rolling, and that’s a huge credit to the defense and Coach Windemuller’s game plan.”
Assistant Principal Ryan Oshnock–from Parent/Teacher Conferences in the South High School
“We attempted to stream the basketball game on mhsaa.tv, but unfortunately, we were not able to get a great connection. However, many teachers were able to pull up the game on the radio via their phones, so we were able to follow the play by play of the game. Emotionally, our minds were on our task at hand, yet in the back of our mind, we were in full support of the basketball team. It reminded me of the days long before the internet and regional cable where we would huddle around our radio intently listening to play by play action. It reminded me of a scene in the movie Hoosiers where one of the player’s dad was in the hospital listening to the game and was captivated by every basket.”
Basketball Parent Sara Pedersen
“Usually I am a nervous wreck when Drew (son) is at the line, but this time I was surprisingly calm watching him shoot his free throws. I was really enjoying the moment and was hoping he would make them but felt in my gut that even if he missed the team was going to pull through with a win.”
Instructor Cathy Engel
“The most intense, for me, was a missed foul call, where Tyler Bosma got smacked, like he was on the ground. Clearly, he had been pushed by one of the players, but everyone just went insane.”
Forward Jared Andrews
“When I walked back into the gym at the six-minute mark to continue warm-ups the entire West Ottawa crowd started cheering and clapping. The sound was insane. I’ve never heard a crowd as loud as they were last night. I think it really gave our team the edge to pull off the win.”
Instructor Audra Bolhuis
“My favorite moment of the game was when Xavier stole the ball from a player he had been guarding for a lot of the game. He gained control then hit a really difficult shot. Xavier showed great poise and patience on defense guarding the other player and executed when he got the ball. The energy that filled the gym in that moment was amazing and I knew they were going to pull away with the win.”