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Whitehall girls fall to Freeland in regional, but come away with lasting memories

Close-knit Vikings make a day of their trip to Frankenmuth.

Photos courtesy of Whitehall girls basketball

Tuesday’s Division 2 regional semifinal didn’t go the way Whitehall’s girls basketball team wanted it. The Vikings fell to hot-shooting Freeland, 51-33, at Frankenmuth High School.

But their day-long trek across the state to and from “Little Bavaria” will leave them with lasting memories.

The day began with a police escort out of town and send-off with fans, it included a pitstop for lunch along the way and even a visit to Bronner’s, the largest Christmas store in the world.

Whitehall coach Brian Milliron was pleased with the way his team competed, but hot-shooting Freeland made it difficult on the Vikings with 11 3-pointers.

“Freeland is a good basketball team and beating a team that hits 11 3s is tough to do,” Milliron said. “The Whitehall girls competed for 32 minutes tonight and I couldn’t be prouder of their efforts and what they have accomplished.

“This team has been led by the seniors throughout and it is tough to lose them, but Onnyka (Dempsey), Hailey (Carnes), Ashley (TenBrink), Lola (Buckner), Autumn (Ferris), Jadyn (Ringler) and Marissa (Strandberg) have left a lasting legacy that goes beyond basketball.”

Whitehall’s girls basketball team poses for a portrait during CatchMark SportsNet Girls Basketball Media Day on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, at CatchMark Technologies in Whitehall, Mich.

Whitehall closes its season with a 13-11 record. Freeland (20-5) advances to Thursday’s 7 p.m. regional final against host Frankenmuth (22-2), which defeated Belding in the second game Tuesday, 53-23.

Whitehall hung around in the early going against Freeland as the game was tied at 7, but the Falcons closed the first quarter with an 8-2 run for a 15-9 lead. Freeland had a run of five straight made 3-pointers in the second quarter to extend the lead to 34-15 at halftime. Through three quarters, Freeland had made nine triples and stretched the margin to 48-24.

Ferris paced Whitehall with 10 points and four rebounds. Junior Lucy Zamojcin had six points and four rebounds for the Vikings, while sophomore Lexi Daggett scored six points. TenBrink had five points and three rebounds.

Whitehall’s Autumn Ferris poses for a portrait during CatchMark SportsNet Girls Basketball Media Day on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, at CatchMark Technologies in Whitehall, Mich. (Kara Raeth | CatchMark)

Haven Vasold led all scorers with 19 points for Freeland, including four 3s. Karie Keefer scored 18 points for the Falcons, also with four treys.

It was a season of ups and downs for Whitehall as the Vikings battled several injuries and finished sixth in the seven-team West Michigan Conference Lakes Division with a 4-8 record. But the season also had its moments, including beating rival Montague on its home court in the district finals last Friday, 36-31, after losing twice to the Wildcats in the regular season.

“Winning the first district title in 18 years is fantastic, but their growth as people has been what coach Emily MacArthur and I most like to see,” Milliron said.

“These girls are excellent human beings and have set a high bar for our junior leaders like Lucy Zamojcin, Allie VanAntwerp and Taylor Ottinger to reach and I’m sure they will.”

Milliron noted that the team would like to thank Derek Westerlund, who coached the Vikings previously, as well as trainer Michaelanne Hendrixon, who helped the Vikings through a plethora of injuries throughout the season.

The squad also is grateful for the parents and Whitehall community, which supported the Vikings all the way through.

“It is a very special place to go to school and grow up,” Milliron said.

“It’s been a great year. I’m going to miss them. I have them in class until May and then I’m really going to be missing them. We have good kids.”

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Sue Ritchie

    March 8, 2023 at 10:49 am

    What a great article. Sums up these ladies so well. They never gave up even with all the injuries! Loved watching them on their basketball journey and will miss the seniors so much. I know they will be winners in whatever they do in life

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