Pewamo-Westphalia was on the verge of being blown out of the Breslin Center.
Muskegon Heights, whose players leave their shooting consciences on the bench, was drilling three-point shots so far beyond the line they should have been worth four points as the Tigers built a seven-point lead in the second quarter.
That is when Nick Spitzley took over.
“I knew I just had to take some shots,” he said, “because we were, like, going scoreless.”
Spitzley, 6-feet-2, began with a three-point bomb and then capped a fast break with a lay-up on which he had to pull the ball into his body before releasing it so it didn’t get blocked.
A few minutes later he scored on a runner across the lane, and by halftime we had a game — a Class C semifinal game Thursday that Pewamo would eventually win, 54-44.
This was not the first time Spitzley played this game. He’d played it thousands of times, just not actually in the Breslin Center. Some were played in his head; some were played on the playground.
“It was outside on the basketball court, on the cement just shooting around thinking about it,” he said. “It’s always a buzzer-beater when you’re a little kid.”
The thing about those games Spitzley played in his head, they were always with these same guys — Lane Simon, Evan Fedewa, Kyle Nurenberg, Adam Wesley.
There are no transfers here, no school of choice guys. These guys have been playing together since the fifth grade, and playing in the state championship was always the goal.
“We all grew up on this team,” Spitzley said. “Fifth through eighth grade we were undefeated, so I knew there was something special because not many teams do that.”
Even fewer get to the Breslin Center, which is why Thursday may have been a good day to go shopping in Pewamo or Westphalia — if you could have found a store that was open.
“I don’t think anything is open,” Spitzley said. “I know a lot of people took off work, some workplaces shut down even. That’s how big it is.”
The entire student body seemed to be at the Breslin Center. Some of them even rode in buses from Fowler.
“We took their buses,” Spitzley said. “We didn’t have enough.”
The Pirates (23-2) put the game away midway through the third quarter when they scored 12 straight points. The cruncher came when Spitzley made two free throws following an intentional foul. He then in-bounded the ball by throwing a lob to Simon, who tipped it right back to Spitzley, who laid it in the basket.
Pewamo coach Luke Pohl added that play Wednesday afternoon, and if you saw the way Spitzley and Simon smiled at each other as they ran down court, you thought you watching the movie “Hoosiers.”
This has been a tremendous tournament run for Spitzley, who is trying to prove he can play college basketball, maybe even at the Division I level. The other night Spitzley finally received his first offer, from Division II Northwood.
“I kind of got a chip on my shoulder,” he said.
You may want to stay out of Pewamo and Westphalia late Saturday afternoon because the Pirates will be playing Detroit Consortium at 4:30 p.m. for the Class C state championship.
Consortium is led by sophomore Josh Jackson, and Spitzley is well aware of him.
“Yeah, the No. 1 player in the country, probably,” Spitzley said. “It will be fun going against him.”
Then Spitzley was asked if Jackson has heard of him. “Probably not,” he said, laughing and shaking his head.
More people, specifically college coaches, should hear about Nick Spitzley.