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FHC Sports Report

The home for coverage of all FHC athletics

FHC Sports Report

The home for coverage of all FHC athletics

FHC Sports Report

Boys basketball tournament run ends in Regional Final with 56-51 loss to Zeeland West


A storybook season for the boys varsity basketball team came to an emotional conclusion last night in the Regional Final at East Kentwood. A strong third quarter lifted senior-laden Zeeland West (18-6) to a 56-51 victory over the Rangers (18-8).

The Rangers advanced to their first Regional Final in 17 years and won the first District Championship since 2016 under first-year head coach Jordan George. Seniors Brady Miller (Hope College commit) and Jonas VanderWoude again led the charge last night with 16 points each to end prolific careers.

VanderWoude, who has yet to pick a college to continue his playing career, scored all of his 16 points in a frenetic second half that ended in a flurry of steals and threes in the last few minutes. His 25-foot launch from beyond the top of the key cut the lead to three with just 45 seconds remaining, but it was as close as the Rangers would get before Zeeland West closed the deal at the free throw line.

VanderWoude credited the Dux for making key plays down the stretch in a game that entertained a packed gymnasium. The flow, shot-making, defensive effort, and minimal whistles (no fouls were called in the first quarter) made the Regional Final a spectacle for everyone.

“It is a heartbreaking loss for everyone on the team,” Jonas said. “Zeeland West is a great team and props to them. We were prepared and had chances to win down the stretch but just could not convert. Everyone on our team made huge plays, but they made some big shots, as well.”

Senior Luke Bakker, who has committed to play at Hope College, made many of those big shots and led the Dux with 16 points, while Mr. Basketball candidate and Indiana State signee Merrit Alderink scored 12. The Rangers led by four at halftime, but a hot-shooting Dux team carried a five-point lead into the fourth quarter. With the win, the Dux move on to their first Quarterfinal appearance ever on Tuesday night in Grand Haven against Muskegon.

With four minutes to go and an eight-point deficit, the Rangers put on the press that propelled them to a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Caledonia in the district final. The press yielded similar results: steals and tips from senior Ty Hudkins, junior Brendan Cargill, and Miller and VanderWoude. But, this comeback attempt fell just short when a few desperate shots missed the mark in the last few seconds.

Cargill got the Rangers off to a quick lead with a three-point shot on the second possession of the game and continued to thrill the Ranger faithful in the first half with four three-point shots and a magical Euro-step layup. He finished with 13 points. Senior Owen Godley also had an excellent game with six points, five rebounds, and three impressive blocks of Alderink.

Godley, one of eight seniors on the roster, credits the togetherness and culture for the team’s success this year after pre-season polls and pundits were not expecting much from the Rangers. “

I have never been a part of a team where everybody was so together,” Godley said. “We encouraged each other, picked each other up, and pushed each other to be better. Much of our success this season was because of the effort that Coach George and our entire coaching staff put into the team. You could tell they truly cared about creating a culture and environment for us to grow not only as basketball players but also as people.”

George took over the program this year after a highly-successful, five-year stint from 2001 FHC graduate Kyle Carhart. George served as JV coach for two years and was Carhart’s top assistant the past two years. 

Jonas also credited the team-first culture created by the senior leaders, George, and his assistant coaches for the regular and post-season success.

Overall, I think it is safe to say that no team has ever been as close-knit as we were,” Jonas said. “Everybody loved each other and genuinely wanted to see their brothers succeed, which is very rare. Teams always say that they are ‘family’ to one another, but this team represented that more than any team I have ever played for. We always talked about playing our best basketball in March, and I think that is exactly what we did. We just came up a little bit short.”

George also credited Zeeland West after the game and was proud of how far his team advanced in the state tournament. 

“We talked the whole tournament about how we wanted to earn more time together,” George said. “This group just loves being together and every game we saw as an opportunity to earn another practice together.”

Like Jonas and Owen, George thinks culture and camaraderie had a lot to do with the 18-win season.

“This team was as together as any group I’ve been around,” George said. “They were truly selfless and had a “we over me” attitude, and I think everyone could see that play out on the court with how hard they played and our bench reactions as well.”

He also spoke highly about his two talented senior leaders, Brady and Jonas.

“Brady and Jonas have been true culture setters for our entire program,’ George said. “They’ve shown our younger guys that you can’t have results without depositing hours and hours of intentional time to getting better. I can’t say enough about them; they’re going to be so successful in life because of their attitudes and approaches.”

Brady, who sprained his ankle pretty seriously early in the fourth quarter, laced up his torn shoe during a timeout and competed valiantly until the final buzzer. His steals and layups pushed the Dux to the limit in the last couple of minutes. 

“I’m proud of how the team played,” Miller said.  “Obviously it was a game that was winnable and a game that I felt like we should’ve gone out and won, but we just couldn’t get it done in the half. Congrats to them.”

Brady said he was thankful for the time this team had together. 

“This team is special. Everybody was friends with each other and truly enjoyed being around each other,” Brady said. “Definitely it’s a successful season and one that I’m never going to forget. Those wins at Caledonia and at East Kentwood in the playoffs are some of my favorite games I will ever play.  I will always cherish the memories I have from Rangerball.”

George is excited about the future of the program and said he wanted to thank the community for its support throughout the season and especially during the scintillating run to the Regional Final. He is excited that the younger players have a great example to follow next year.

“I told our underclassmen after the game that they have a tall order in front of them to create an environment like the seniors did this year,” George said. “That true selflessness is extremely hard to develop, but our seniors have set a great example. I have a lot of belief that we have younger guys coming up that want to continue this tradition and continue the positive momentum that the program has.”

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