The Wildcats played perhaps their best basketball of the season in the first half against visiting Middleville Thornapple Kellogg, streaking out to a 45-12 advantage and this time made a successful comeback virtually impossible. Eventually, they won by a comfortable 70-46 count.
Wayland suffered its first loss of the season at Middleville last month, 63-60, in a game it let slip away after taking a huge lead in the first quarter. Though the ‘Cats’ intensity wasn’t there in the third period, they had built a big enough cushion and were able to coast to victory, bringing their overall season record to 12-3.
The interesting news from elsewhere was that Grand Rapids South Christian upended O-K Gold leader Ottawa Hills, which has pinned the other two defeats on Wayland this season. The Wildcats have the sobering thought that they have to play the Sailors at home Feb. 27 and then again in the opening round of the Class B district tournament March 9.
Wayland coach Mike Hudson surprised TK with a juggled starting lineup. Joining point guard Dilon Aten, guard-forward Mitchell Dykstra and 6-9 pivot Lacey James were seniors Zach Nyp and Tyler WanderWeide.
The Wildcats came out roaring in the first few minutes and never looked back after taking leads of 9-0, 16-2, 21-4 and 30-6. They did virtually everything right with full-court pressure, a zone defense that the Trojans just couldn’t penetrate for good shots and they spread the ball around for the scoring.
James was dominant inside again, scoring nine points in the first quarter alone.
Things really got miserable for Middleville in the second quarter when top scorer Tommy Hamilton drew his third foul at the 5:58 mark and spent the rest of the half on the sidelines. At that time, TK was staring at an incredible 37-8 deficit.
The Wildcats did virtually the same thing in the first quarter in the first game between the two O-K Gold Conference rivals. They took an 18-2 advantage, but slowly and surely let the Trojans back into the game, eventually losing.
Middleville at that time was peaking with an undefeated record, but since has suffered several losses.
TK came out in the third quarter and whittled the gap down to 19 points, 54-35, on the strength of three-point shooting by Hamilton and Jackson Bronkema, but that’s as close as they would get. The Trojans’ last gasp was a basket with less than half a second left on the clock for the third period, but coach Mike Rynearson, a Hopkins High School graduate, was whistled for a technical foul.
Aten swished the resultant two free throws and Wayland went up by 21, 58-37, to start the fourth period.
James finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks and four assists. When the Trojans collapsed on him every time he received a pass inside, he dumped the ball off to 6-6 sophomore Zac Nieuwkoop, who finished with 13 points for the night.
Aten added 11 points and sophomore guard Avery Hudson 10, as four scored in double figures.
Hamilton scored 16 points and Bronkema 10 for TK, which now sports a 10-5 overall record after winning its first seven.
The Wildcats will be at home Tuesday evening for a nonleague contest against Mattawan.
PHOTO: Sophomore forward Zac Nieuwkoop (4) sets a pick for senior point guard Dilon Aten. Nieukoop had 13 points and Aten 11 in Wayland’s revenge victory over Middleville Friday evening. (Photo courtesy Kenny Ritz)