The Harper Creek girls’ basketball team didn’t have much room for error this season if it wanted to win a Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference Eastern division championship.
The Beavers finished their regular season with 40-21 home victory over Battle Creek Central on Friday night, wrapping up a nearly-perfect 16-1 (13-1 SMAC East) season to clinch a division title — by a very narrow margin.
It was Harper Creek’s third straight league championship, but this one did not come easy for the Beavers, as it took until the last game of the regular season to beat out Marshall (16-4, 12-2 SMAC East) by one game in the SMAC East standings.
“Winning the league was one of our goals that we talk about openly, but holy cow, talk about having to work for it this year,” said Harper Creek head coach Matt Ellenwood. “One loss gets you a title by yourself, two gets you a tie; that’s a pretty tough conference. I cannot be more proud of the girls and how they persevered through some of the tough games to get to where they are now.”
Harper Creek pounced on the Bearcats (6-13, 4-10 SMAC East) early, jumping out to 24-9 halftime lead, then used another solid defensive effort in the second half to maintain their lead.
Four Harper Creek seniors were honored for their accomplishments after the game and were able to hang a third consecutive SMAC East Championship banner in front of an appreciative crowd.
Brianne Burritt and Sarah Ressler are four-year varsity members; Jozlin Johnson is a third-year varsity member and Kaycee Klaren is in her second season on varsity.
“Our season’s been going really well, we’ve been playing together as a team and tonight was a nice way to end it,” said Burritt.
Ressler added, “We’ve been playing here for four years and tonight was our last game here, so that was sad, but, we’re not done yet.”
The Beavers face off against Pennfield in the first round of districts next Wednesday at Comstock, while BCC has a first round bye then hosts the Mason versus Coldwater winner next Friday.
“We obviously want to enjoy tonight; they’ve earned it. But, on the other hand, everybody starts over again on Monday so we’re going to get a game plan in and start putting in the work at practice and then we’ll see how it falls this week at districts,” Ellenwood said.”
Burritt led the Beavers with eight points, five rebounds and four steals. Ressler scored five points with five boards, Johnson had six rebounds and Nicole Gilbert scored seven points.
Kayla Freeman led BCC with 10 points, five rebounds and three stealsand Kaylee Ryan chipped in six points.