Photos by Zach Zweigle | CatchMark
Whitehall’s boys basketball team lived up to any expectations set this season.
Sometimes, you just run into a juggernaut. That’s what happened Wednesday night in Whitehall’s 95-63 loss to Grand Rapids Catholic Central in a Division 2 regional final at Forest Hills Eastern High School.
The defending state champion Cougars pounced on the Vikings with a 27-10 first quarter and scored 30 more points in the second quarter in showing why they’re heavy favorites to win it all again.
Whitehall’s memorable, 18-6 season included a second-straight West Michigan Conference title, the first district championship since 2007 and first regional victory since 2002.
GRCC (23-1) advances to Tuesday’s state quarterfinal against Benton Harbor (22-2) at Calvin University.
“You know, the seniors, this group, they set the expectation for our program now. The expectation is to be here; it’s not just to win a conference,” Whitehall coach Christian Subdon said. “We want to do those things as boxes we check on the way here, but now the kids know, ‘This is an expectation now, that we need to be here, and we’ll be better from this game.’
“It’s hard to look at it and think that, but I mean, if you told me Grand Rapids Catholic Central goes on and wins the state championship, I’d say, ‘Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me at all.’ We just ran into the better team tonight, but gosh darn it, our kids just fought.”
After GRCC flexed its muscle in the first half in building a 57-31 lead at the break, Whitehall kept playing hard and outscored the Cougars 38-32 over the final 16 minutes.
Freshman Camden Thompson again paced Whitehall with 22 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks. Senior Red Watson had 11 points and two steals for the Vikings, while sophomore Kyle Stratton added eight points and two steals. Seniors Brodie Fogus (nine rebounds) and Isaac DeHart had five points apiece.
GRCC’s Kaden Brown led all scorers with 28 points, including 12 in the opening quarter and 23 in the first half. He made five 3-pointers in the opening 16 minutes. Durral Brooks scored 18 points for the Cougars, while Jack Karasinski had 10.
“We didn’t want to just hand them the win,” said Watson, the point guard who was instrumental for Whitehall during a stretch of the season in which the Vikings won 16 of 18 games. “We wanted them to work for it and respect us a little at least.”
Added Thompson: “We knew we had a chance with these guys, but we just let it get away from us at the beginning of the game.”
GRCC’s starting lineup features one player signed with a Division I program, two more receiving D-I offers and a fourth committed to a Division II school.
Whitehall leveraged its athleticism throughout the season and made things difficult on opponents with its defense, but the Vikings encountered a different animal in the Cougars.
“It’s hard to prep for their athleticism and their length because they’re long, you know,” Subdon said. “And they do what they do well. The press hurt us a little bit. We prepped for it, but it’s hard to do anything about it when we’re not as long like that.
“We didn’t give in. We scored 60-something points. If you would have told me that, I would have been like, ‘Where can I sign?’ But they scored 90, so it’s tough,” Subdon said.
Even though the game didn’t go how they would have wanted, the Vikings were keeping things in proper perspective afterwards.
“I just cherish these moments,” Thompson said. “You never know when it’s going to be your last game … with these seniors.”
Said Subdon: “I love (these players). I’m going to miss the seniors, but I’m going to remember them for what they helped me build here because they built a foundation for something we can keep following up.”
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