From top to bottom, boys basketball in the West Michigan Conference in 2021-22 was as balanced as it’s been in several years.
The league featured several very good players, but three stood out above the rest in their ability to pack the stat sheet, carry their respective teams and make clutch plays.
Ravenna’s Kyle Beebe, Shelby’s Joseph Hayes and Whitehall’s Camden Thompson have been selected by a CatchMark SportsNet panel as finalists for the 2022 VanDyk Mortgage West Michigan Conference Player of the Year for boys basketball. The panel consists of CatchMark’s Scott DeCamp, Brent Raeth and Zach Zweigle.
Next week, a poll will open and readers will vote to determine which of those three players wins the award. Fan polls of all 2021-22 winter sports will be released in one story at CatchMarkSports.com. Readers will be allowed to vote once per hour in each poll for as long as the polls remain open.
This week, a story will be published each day revealing three Player of the Year finalists in a winter sport. Here is the scheduled lineup:
- Monday: Boys basketball
- Tuesday: Girls basketball
- Wednesday: Boys wrestling
- Thursday: Girls wrestling
- Friday: Boys bowling
- Saturday: Girls bowling
All finalists for the VanDyk Mortgage Player of the Year will be invited to an upcoming awards presentation and honorary dinner, where trophies and certificates will be presented. A trophy that stays in our CatchMark office will have the names of the Players of the Year engraved on it.
Here are the three finalists for Player of the Year in boys basketball, along with their season stats and achievements. They are listed alphabetically:
Ravenna, senior guard
“Big Shot” Beebe made plenty of clutch plays for Ravenna the last two seasons. Despite nursing injuries, he did it all this season for the Bulldogs in their historic run to the Division 3 regional finals.
Beebe’s step-back 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2.1 seconds left lifted Ravenna to a 56-53 victory over Blanchard Montabella, resulting in the Bulldogs’ first district championship in 20 years.
The 6-foot-2 senior often played point guard for the ‘Dogs, although his more natural position is the wing. This season, Beebe averaged 16.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.1 steals per game to lead his team in every statistical category. He shot 50 percent from the floor, 35 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the free-throw line.
In addition to his abilities on the offensive end of the court, Beebe often guarded bigger players because of Ravenna’s limited height. His defensive communication also was a key for the Bulldogs, according to coach Courtney Kemp.
Beebe was the unquestioned leader for Ravenna, which posted a 16-7 overall record and finished second in the West Michigan Conference at 10-4, one game behind champion Whitehall. The Bulldogs’ deepest postseason run since 1955 ended in a tough 48-38 regional finals loss to Pewamo-Westphalia.
Shelby, senior guard
Hayes was the top scorer in the West Michigan Conference this season and he also was the No. 1 vote-getter on the all-conference team.
The 6-foot-1 guard played inside and outside for Shelby. He racked up big stats for the Tigers and often did so quietly because he was so efficient.
Hayes averaged 22.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game. He found ways to score despite drawing the opponent’s best defender. He shot nearly 51 percent from the floor, 40 percent from 3-point range and 76 percent from the free-throw line.
The highlight of Hayes’ season was the career-high 40 points he scored in a 63-55 win over arch-rival Hart in a packed gym on Jan. 27.
Hayes has a very high basketball IQ, plus he’s a 4.0 student in the classroom. He was among the honorees for the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Scholar-Athlete Award, presented at halftime of the Division 3 state finals Saturday at the Breslin Center.
Hayes carried his Shelby team, which competed well in almost every game and finished with a 12-9 overall record. The Tigers were 7-7 in the tough and balanced West Michigan Conference.
Whitehall, freshman forward
Thompson was a true difference-maker for the Vikings, who went 2-3 without him as he missed the first five games with an ankle injury and 16-3 with him in the lineup.
The 6-foot-4 freshman played more of a forward position for Whitehall, but his versatility allows him to man any position on the court. Thompson’s athleticism, quick jumping ability, wiry frame and craftiness around the basket made him tough to defend.
Thompson averaged 18.3 points, 13.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. He was a terror on the boards with 7.7 defensive rebounds and 5.6 offensive per contest.
The biggest game statistically for Thompson was his 32-point, 18-rebound, 3-block night at North Muskegon in the Vikings’ 69-61 victory over the Norse on Feb. 4. In a 95-63 regional finals loss to eventual Division 2 state runner-up Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Thompson finished with 22 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks.
Thompson is a three-sport standout, who also excels in football and track and field. He’s also a strong student.
Whitehall finished with an 18-6 overall record. The Vikings won their second-straight West Michigan Conference title with an 11-3 mark, and they captured their first district championship since 2007.
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