Lady Wildcats finish at 19-1, earn O-K Gold co-championship

Unless Wayland’s girls’ bAli Cutler boxoutasketball team wins the Class B regional championship, local fans have seen the last of Presley Hudson, Morgan Winger and Caroline (C.J) Miller at the good old Wayland gym.

The Lady Wildcats closed out the regular season at 19-1 overall, their best since the glory days under the legendary Zack Moushegian, with a convincing 64-42 triumph over visiting Grand Rapids South Christian. The victory also enabled coach Marty Howard’s group, ranked No. 4 in this week’s Associated Press state Class B poll, to earn a share of the O-K Gold Conference championship, a feat they equaled in 2012.

But Wayland’s got work to do. It must face South Christian yet again Monday in the district opener on the Sailors’ floor. Then it will have to win two more next week to take the district crown, win twice more in regionals, all for the chance to meet Grand Rapids Catholic Central for the third time this season in the quarterfinals on the Wildcats’ floor.

Howard deliberately allowed Winger, Miller and Hudson to come out in the fourth quarter of a ballgame with a comfortable lead, but not everybody in the packed house seemed to understand it might be their last time. A keen grasp of the obvious would be the understanding they might be in for one last game in familiar surroundings.

However, Friday night’s season-ending victory was a strange one, a bizarre tale of two very different halves.

The two teams came out scoring early and often in a very offensive-minded shootout. Wayland jumped out to a 9-2 lead on a three-pointer by Miller and the ‘Cats were up 13-7 without Hudson, one of five finalists for the Miss Basketball award, scoring a single point. That’s when Hudson opened the floodgates, swishing five long-range bombs in a row.

The Sailors gamely tried to stay in contention on the strength three threes from junior point guard Jenn DeBoer, daughter of WOOD-TV weather forecaster Terry DeBoer. But by the time intermission arrived, Hudson had 17 points and Miller 10, and the Lady Wildcats had taken a 40-30 advantage.

The second half was a more striking changeup than anything Justin Verlander could throw. South scored only seven points in the third quarter and five in the last. Wayland, meanwhile, slowed its offensive juggernaut a bit as well, but widened the gap with that suffocating trapping zone that kept the Sailors from getting good looks at the basket.

DeBoer was held to just two points in the entire second half. Hudson, after gorging herself on her streak of threes, went scoreless in those last 16 minutes. Even Miller slowed down and finished with 14 points, three fewer than Hudson’s final total. Ali Cutler picked up the second half slack and dropped in 10. DeBoer had 13.

The Sailors, easily the third best team in one of the toughest girls’ basketball conferences in the state, collapsed in the second half, even faring poorly at the free throw line, making just 6 of 15 for 40 percent. They finished at 6-4 in league play and 13-7 overall.

Wayland can only hope South Christian plays like this again Monday evening, but the game probably will be more like the one earlier this year at South when the Wildcats won by just five, 54-49.

PHOTO: Wildcat junior guard-forward Ali Cutler (12) shows how boxing out is done in this scene from a game earlier this season. Cutler scored 10 points in the win over South Christian Friday evening. (Photo courtsy Kenny Ritz)

EDITOR’s NOTE: Sherry Miklusicak contributed information to this report.


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