For just over half a basketball game the Wayland girls Tuesday evening dared to pull off a major upset of a Zeeland West ballclub that brought a 6-1 overall record to town.
The Lady Wildcats played inspired zone defense and held sharpshooting sophomore Jolee Houle scoreless in the first eight minutes before fading down the stretch and absorbing a 68-52 defeat. They actually led the Dux by six points, 41-35, with a little more than three and a half minutes left in the third quarter, but then were blitzed by Houle’s threes and a barrage of free throws.
Wayland was overpowered by a 41-11 count in the last 11 minutes of the contest.
Coach Wes Hudson put on a scurrying, hustling defense that didn’t allow the Dux many decent looks at the hoop. Meanwhile, the ‘Cats were finding freshman inside player Stephanie Ainsworth for easy layups and another freshman, Parrish Hudson, swished a couple of threes, one of them just before the first period buzzer to knot the count at 14-all.
The defense on both sides was so tenacious that neither team scored in the first three minutes.
Wayland kept it up in the second quarter, taking its first leads in the game by slim margins, and it actually owned a 31-28 advantage at intermission.
Zeeland changed up its defense to start the third period and rattled the ‘Cats for just awhile. Hudson hit a couple more threes and bombs from seniors Chloe Coughlin and Abby Merice enabled the upstart home team to take that six-point lead with 3:39 left in the quarter on a driving layup by junior point guard Abby Omness.
But Houle, whom Hudson called “the shooter,” tossed in three threes and senior Alyssa Smith came off the bench to nail nine free throws. The Wildcats were whistled for seven fouls to Zeeland’s one in the early stages of the second half. The Dux cashed in, making 20 of 30 attempts for the night at the charity stripe.
Wayland made things easier for the guests by too often missing layups and tossing away telegraphed passes, which seemed to negate such a terrific effort on the defensive end.
Nearly every Wayland player broke into the scoring column. Hudson’s 12 points led the way and Ainsworth finished with 10 points. Leading scorer and rebounder Sam Nieuwkoop, however, was limited to just seven points, her lowest total this season.
Houle led all scorers with 21 points, including five threes. Ryleigh Farrell added 16 points.
The loss left the lady Wildcats at 1-6 for the season, but their last two outings have been encouraging. They lost by just three to Grand Rapids Christian last Friday and gave a Zeeland West outfit now 7-1 more than a battle most of the way.
Wayland will be looking to score its second victory of the season Friday at home against Middleville Thornapple Kellogg.