GRANDVILLE – Late in the first quarter of Pewamo-Westphlia’s Class C regional final against Springport on Thursday night, the public address announcer at the scorer’s table looked over his perch and saw four Pirate players sitting in front of him waiting to check in.
Instead of announcing each entrant individually, the man opted for “a host of Pirates.”
It was an appropriate label for a deep and talented P-W team, and Springport quickly realized the same.
The Pirates coasted to a 55-34 win, avenging a loss at this level of the MHSAA state tournament last season.
“We’ve put in a lot of work, and last year in the regional final we got really close the regional final and we got beat out,” senior Kenzie Hengesbach said after finishing with 10 points for P-W. “This is our second chance to go and finally get to the Breslin.”
The Pirates (22-2) will play in a Class C quarterfinal Tuesday at Portage Northern against Schoolcraft to move on to the campus of Michigan State University for the state semifinals.
“Their goal and my goal is always to get to Breslin,” P-W coach Steve Eklund said. “You’ve got to avoid looking that far ahead. It’s always one game at a time, but when you’re only one step away, it’s great to be in a position where you can really think about it. It’s a special group.”
P-W did not allow a basket over the first five minutes of play and the Pirates led 8-0 when the Spartans finally tallied points. The Pirates led 15-3 after the first quarter.
The lead would swell to 19-3 in the second quarter and P-W stretched the lead to 20 at 27-7 thanks to two baskets from sophomore Rachel Huhn.
The Pirates led 34-15 at half, easily negotiating Springport’s pressure and trapping as the Spartans – a young team with no seniors and four freshmen on the roster, but one that had won 20 games – attempted to force turnovers to get back into the game.
“The last words I told our girls when they left the locker room was, let’s take the fight to them, instead of sitting back and letting the other team determine the tempo,” Eklund said. “We knew they were going to pressure us. We needed to attack it and we needed to score on easy baskets and we did.”
“Transition offense was our main goal coming into this game. … We knew we had to get a good outlet pass and spread the floor and keep running and get them tired out and get transition points,” freshman Hannah Spitzley said.
Hannah Spitzley finished with 12 points to lead the Pirates in scoring. Her sister Emily, a junior, had nine points all in the first half.
Nine Pirates scored in the contest as P-W was never really challenged in the second half. Springport narrowed the deficit to as little as 14 at one point.
And P-W kept running, playing an effective game in the midst of a pace that was entirely different than Tuesday’s 34-31 slugfest against Grand Rapids Covenant Christian in the regional semifinals.
“We work really well together,” Hannah Spitzley said. “We’re really good in transition but we have really good set plays and run motion and we can score in all ranges.”