Video by Zach Zweigle | CatchMark
WHITEHALL – When the outcome was all but decided in Whitehall’s 53-43 boys basketball victory over visiting rival Montague Tuesday night, the Vikings’ student section went to the oldest chant in the book.
“Just … like … foot-ball!” (Clap, clap … clap, clap, clap.)
In the fall, Whitehall got over the hump against Montague on the football field by winning back “The Bell” for the first time in seven years. Fast forward to Tuesday, and the Vikings exhibited a football mentality to earn victory over the Wildcats in the CatchMark SportsNet Game of the Week.
With a traveling trophy on the line again, the Vikings ramped up their energy level and focus against the neighboring Wildcats. Just like in football, sophomore Kyle Stratton played a key role in the Whitehall win. He scored a game-high 16 points.
“Like we talked about before the game, if there’s something on the line, we’re going to go out and get it,” said Stratton, who quarterbacked Whitehall to the football win over Montague. “We knew there was something on the line. Obviously, it’s a rivalry, and we don’t like to lose to Montague, so we made sure we didn’t.”
It’s been an up-and-down start to the season for Whitehall, but the Vikings evened their overall record at 3-3 and improved to 2-1 in the West Michigan Conference.
Montague suffered its first loss, now sitting at 3-1 and 2-1, respectively.
In what looks to be a wild conference race, it doesn’t appear to get any easier for Whitehall or Montague this Friday. The Vikings visit an improving Hart squad, while the Wildcats hit the road again to take on always-tough North Muskegon.
First-year Whitehall coach Christian Subdon was thrilled by the intensity his team displayed against Montague, but he was not surprised.
“I told the kids this before the game, if it was a golden pencil we were playing for or just a No. 2 pencil, I want to win it, right, because that’s the kind of competitor I am and that’s the kind of competitors I have on the team,” he said. “All of a sudden, when I tell them there’s a trophy, it’s ramped up right now, they want it. I can’t teach that – that’s something that’s pretty awesome.”
Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
Subdon referenced Whitehall’s 55-51 home victory over North Muskegon on Dec. 16, when the Vikings rallied from a double-digit first-half deficit, as a turning point.
They did suffer a 30-point road loss to Allendale the following week, but Subdon said the Vikings regrouped over Christmas break.
“I thought overall, the North Muskegon game really kind of catapulted us into what we’re doing now and it carried over tonight,” Subdon said. “We got back into the Christmas break and said, ‘You know what, we need to get back to being tough.’”
“I’ve got a bunch of football players running around out here, playing basketball, and what we’re good at is being tough and physical and fast and that’s what we got back to tonight.”
Whitehall established a lead early in the game and never relinquished it.
The Vikings led 12-6 after one quarter and 24-16 at halftime. The Wildcats appeared poised to make a run in the second half, but the hosts had an answer and closed it out.
In the first varsity basketball game, Whitehall freshman Camden Thompson scored nine points. He missed the first five games after suffering an ankle injury. Junior Nate Bolley scored seven points, seniors Red Watson and Brodie Fogus had six apiece, and junior Jack Houtteman added five for the balanced Vikings.
Senior Tugg Nichols paced Montague with 13 points and three rebounds. Senior Tate Stine, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, had 11 points, six rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Isaiah Atchison added seven points, five rebounds and two assists, while junior Braeden Johnston had six points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Video by Zach Zweigle | CatchMark
Montague coach Dave Osborne was disappointed with his team’s energy and intensity levels and he credited Whitehall in those areas.
The rematch between Whitehall and Montague is Feb. 10 at Montague. Last season, the Vikings swept the Wildcats en route to capturing the conference title.
“Honestly, I think there’s no reason for lack of energy and effort and I will never make an excuse for that and we had poor energy tonight. And our effort, we just looked lethargic,” said Osborne, whose team last played Dec. 21. “You can blame the layoff, but I’m not going to. I think our guys have got to bring it every night and they just didn’t tonight.
“Maybe some of our players were listening too much to what the media had to say about how good we were. I do still think we’re a good basketball team, but we can’t come out with that type of energy and effort and still think we’re going to compete for a league title.”
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