Going into its Class C regional semifinal against Pewamo-Westphalia, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian averaged 66.2 points per game this season.
They were held 30 points under that by the Pirates, who advanced to the regional finals with a 57-36 win at Blanchard Montabella on Monday night.
“(NorthPointe Christian) played a great schedule, and they’re able to put up a lot of points,” P-W coach Luke Pohl said. “I told my guys that we’ve been good defensively, and now I want us to be great. I thought we had another gear, and we hit that gear tonight.”
Evan Fedewa and Nick Spitzley scored 15 points each for P-W (20-2), but the game was won with defense and rebounding. The Pirates forced 19 Mustang turnovers and outrebounded them 50-28 in a game that was all but over at halftime.
Adam Wesley finished with 11 points, including the first six of the game on two 3-pointers, to start an 8-0 run and help P-W to a 16-4 lead at the end of the first quarter. Spitzley and Fedewa also hit from beyond the arc in the first half, which ended with P-W holding a 36-16 lead, and the Mustangs never threatened.
“All I wanted to do was hold on (in the second half),” Pohl said. “We had a big enough lead that all we needed to do was play them even in the third quarter, and then we could hold the ball and do some stuff in the fourth, shoot some free throws and win it.”
Senior guard Drew Zuidema scored a team-high 11 for NorthPointe Christian (14-9), who had four players average double figures in scoring.
“They’re one of the best defensive teams I’ve seen in the past 10 or 15 years,” Mustangs coach Jared Redell said. “They defend the ball well, all five guys are really smart on the floor and they help each other out really well. We knew it was going to take a special effort, and we just got outplayed and out-coached tonight.”
With the win, P-W advances to Wednesday’s regional final against Shelby (22-2), who defeated Lakeview 80-72 in the other semifinal. The Tigers are another high-scoring team, with seven games in which they exceeded 70 points, four of them in their last eight games.
But the Pirates will go into the game with no small measure of confidence in their ability to shut teams down.
“I’ve coached for 33 years, and I have never seen a team play defense as hard and as well as we did tonight,” Pohl said. “I wouldn’t want to go against it.”