Wayland annexed its first regional basketball championship since 2012, the culmination of a strange and difficult journey.
The Lady Wildcats defeated host Edwardsburg 61-48 in the finals of the Division 2 regional tournament Wednesday evening to earn a berth in the state quarterfinals. It was their third trophy earned this season, adding on to the O-K Gold Conference and district crowns.
The Wayland team of 2012 featured Autumn Anderson, Molly Lameyer and a freshman point guard named Presley Hudson. Though the Lady Wildcats have won several regional titles, this one had to be special.
Coach Wes Hudson took over the reins of a program that had dried up in terms of talent after the 2016 season His first team won only once, a nail-biter of Middleville Thornapple Kellogg.
The next two campaigns the Lady Wildcats still had losing seasons, but in Hudson’s fourth year he was joined by his father, veteran boys’ coach Mike Hudson, who had recently retired. Wayland went 14-9 overall.
This season had different challenges with the Covid-19 virus pandemic forcing the shutdown of half of the Lady ‘Cats’ regular season games. They entered the districts with an 8-2 record and had to overcome a good South Christian outfit in overtime in the finals, They’ve had a somewhat easier time at regionals with a 54-41 win over 12-1 Plainwell and then the 13-point triumph vs. 12-3 Edwardsburg.
Staying with the program for four years have been point guard Parish Hudson and center Stephanie Ainsworth.
Wayland will play at 7 p.m. Monday in the quarterfinal round against a Newaygo squad that sports a 19-1 overall record. The site has yet to be determined.
COVER PHOTO Courtesy of Jennifer Antel