BOYS BASKETBALL: Holland West Ottawa plotting to derail top-ranked Clarkston | North Oakland Sports

BOYS BASKETBALL: Holland West Ottawa plotting to derail top-ranked Clarkston

| March 24, 2018 | Comments (0)



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EAST LANSING — Excuse Steve Windemuller if he doesn’t get a bunch of sleep Friday night.

The fifth-year Holland West Ottawa boys basketball coach has guided his senior-laden Panthers to the Class A state championship game. 

Windemuller and seventh-ranked West Ottawa’s reward? Going up against defending state champion Clarkston, which is 25-1 and has been ranked No. 1 most of the season. The favored Wolves have also bounced around the national top 50 this winter.

“They’re good — no question about it. Their reputation is that they are always good,” said Windemuller, who team escaped unranked Novi 53-50 Friday. “This is the first time I have seen them in person. We have our work cut out for us.”

West Ottawa, anchored by nine seniors, never won a district before last season. The Panthers (25-2) captured their first regional this year and are enjoying their first Final Four appearance. The school opened its doors back in 1962, but does not have much of a history in the sport of boys basketball as compared to No. 1 Clarkston.

In contrast, the Wolves own 43 league championships, 40 district titles, 14 regional crowns, been to the Final Four a total of four times — three in the past decade — and captured their first state title last season.

And most of those players from that well-oiled machine are back in uniform this year.

Led by Michigan State-signee Foster Loyer, the 2018 Mr. Basketball winner who scored 42 points in Clarkston’s 74-49 rout of Warren DeLaSalle in the semis, the Wolves pose quite a few matchup problems for the Panthers.

“We know about Foster Loyer. We’ll have to find a way to guard him,” said Windemuller. “We’ll watch some film tonight and try to come up with a plan.”

Although West Ottawa does not have any players above 6-foot-5, the Panthers are experienced, deep and talented.

“We can’t change that much. We’ll have to play the way we have all season — play with what got us here,” said Windemuller. “We have to try to slow it down and play our style of game and hope for the best.”

West Ottawa is led by senior point guard Xavier Wade, the engine that makes the Panthers go. It is seniors that grab a bulk of the minutes for West Ottawa. Senior forwards Tyler Bosma, Liam Cavanaugh and Drew Petersen, and senior guard Nick Wehrmeyer have also been steady performers for West Ottawa.

The Panthers have defeated its seven postseason opponents by 8.3 points a game, while Clarkston has not had a win by less than 12 points and are winning by an average of 24.7 points game over six postseason contests.

West Ottawa is on an 11-game streak, while Clarkston has won 20 games in a row.

“I think we are long and athletic and we play fundamentally sound basketball,” said Windemuller. “Again, we’ll try to play our style of game.”

Seven of Clarkston’s 16 players stand between 6-5 and 6-11 and while the Wolves have not gone to their bench very often in the tournament, Clarkston still has multiple Division I, Division II, Division III and NAIA recruits on its  deep roster.

The Wolves also counter with 6-9 big man Taylor Currie, who is headed to Wisconsin, lightning-quick senior guard CJ Robinson, 6-2 senior guard Nick Wells, who has been a key cog in Clarkston’s run, and 6-5 senior forward Chase Wasilk along with a plethora of other talent in their roster.

“We don’t have a roster of big-time players,” said Windemuller. “We have a D-III kid, an All-State linebacker, and a lot of players that play well with each other. On the basketball court we have a really good team. I’m proud of everything that they have accomplished the past couple of years — helping us reach this point.”

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