Length: The key to success


Travis Bethke

On January 24, only 20 seconds into the basketball game, Jr. Tyler Bosma reached out and intercepted a pass far out of range of an average  player’s reach. Grandville’s first offensive possession came to a screeching halt as West Ottawa thwarted their attempt to pass the ball. Bosma’s first steal of the game was no surprise and was just the beginning of the defensive tidal wave that would send Grandville home with a loss. WO’s unruly length on defense has opened up many opportunities for the Panthers and has been the biggest factor of success this season.

  Unquestionably, it takes height to be a good basketball team, and along with good height comes long wingspans. WO’s top six players have proven themselves to be extreme athletes who utilize their length in ways that win them games. The height and wingspan of the most frequent six players are as follows:


                                       Height        Wingspan

Sr. Jake Van Tubbergen:  6’ 6’’                6’ 8’’

Jr. Tyler Bosma                 6’ 6’’                6’ 8’’  

Jr. Drew Pedersen            6’ 2’’                6’ 5’’

Jr. Nick Wehrmeyer          6’ 0’’                6’ 0’’

Jr. Xavier Wade                6’ 3’’                6’ 3’’

Sr. Nolan Eccker              6’ 4’’                6’ 6’’


  WO showcased their length against Grandville by defusing both of Grandville’s first two possessions with steals from Bosma and Pedersen in less than 50 seconds. In the first quarter, the Panthers put up an astonishing 18 points while holding Grandville to only two. Topping Grandville with a 63-41 final score, WO tallied six blocks and six steals resulting in twelve total turnovers. “Our defense was the key reason we got off to such a good start, most of our points were from steals,” Jr. Nick Wehrmeyer said. The Panthers have had the advantage over their opponents this season by using their height and length to bring about unexpected steals and blocks, leading to more opportunities to score.

  As well as their ability to put pressure on their opponents, having long wingspans takes pressure off the Panthers themselves. “Having great length on our team has been important to our success this season. If one of us were to get beat, we can rely on each other to step in and reach for the ball to stop the drive and potentially draw a turnover. I know I can rely on my teammates to back me up on defense, so I don’t always feel like I have to be perfect,” Wehrmeyer said.

  In the first half of the season, WO has shocked the OK Red and have gone undefeated in conference games. Outscoring their opponents by an average point differential of 19.5 points, the Panthers have proved their talent on defense. “WO’s defense is pretty hard to play against. Their length makes it very difficult to move the ball and set up opportunities to score,” Grandville basketball player Austin Dukesherer said.

  The Panthers range on defense has also been apparent to teams out of the OK Red. “There was really no surprise in the way they played defense, we knew they were good. It’s just hard to simulate a practice to prepare for a defense of that sort of length, it’s more of an adjustment,” Holland High School Varsity basketball coach Paul Chapman said. The Panthers employed their immense length to shut down Hollands offense and win the game 64-45.   

  The value of having a lengthy defense is without question a bonus. With Pedersen, Van Tubbergen, and Wehrmeyer up top, along with Eccker and Bosma down low, the Panthers have a combined wingspan of over 32 feet. The sight of WO’s defense alone is likely to make opposing teams panic and take lower percentage shots, which increases WO’s chance of winning. The length of WO’s starters has been the backbone of their outstanding defense, and their 13-1 record has proven them to be one of the best Division 1 basketball teams in the state.   

  If WO can continue to use their outstanding length on defense, a regional title is definitely within reach.