By Andrew Johnson
SPRING LAKE – It may have taken three attempts, but the seniors on the Montague girls basketball team finally hoisted a district championship trophy after defeating neighborhood rival Whitehall 48-36 in the Division 2 district final at Spring Lake on Friday night.
“It’s great,” said senior Allison Hall about winning a district title after being a part of good Montague teams that lost in the district finals in 2018 and 2020. “We’ve been wanting this for so long, and finally we got it in our last year all together. We have so much love for each other, and we were driven so hard in the offseason to do this.”
The district championship is the first for the Montague girls basketball program since the 2009-2010 season.
“These girls really worked hard for it,” said Wildcat head coach Cody Kater. “It’s nice to see hard work pay off. We talk about preparing ourselves so we can find success, and our girls have no regrets with how they’ve prepared themselves.”
Montague is now 17-0 and will travel to Fremont on Monday for a regional semifinal against Newaygo at 7 p.m.
Montague displayed its hunger for a championship from the start on Friday, jumping out to a 13-6 lead in the first 6:10 of the opening quarter.
But Whitehall responded with a 7-3 run to make the score 16-13 after one full quarter.
Senior Braquelle Osborne had six points on two three-pointers to lead the Wildcats, while the Vikings were paced by Karleigh Jeffries with nine points.
The offense went dead for both teams in the second quarter, with Whitehall having a 6-5 edge and cutting their deficit to 21-19 at halftime.
However, in the third quarter, the Wildcats showcased their offensive ability, going on a decisive 14-2 run over the first 3:40 to extend the lead to 35-21.
Hall led the Wildcats with seven points in the quarter, while Jeffries had four of the seven Viking points. Montague led 38-26 at the end of three quarters.
“We had to pick up the pace and push the ball,” said Kater about the game-changing run. “We had to start flashing into openings instead of playing to the stale environment that was out there.”
Both teams scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, and Whitehall never got closer than 11 points.
Whitehall, which finished the season with an 11-7 record, was led by Jeffries with 17 points.
“They’ve prepared and they’re so close,” said Whitehall head coach Derek Westerlund about Jeffries and her eight other senior teammates. “When you put that much time and effort in, it hurts. I’m proud of every single one of them. It’s a great group who has battled and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Montague was paced by Hall with 10 points, while freshman Kendall Osborne and senior Andie Zamojcin each totaled eight.
“That was the biggest thing,” said Kater about having such a balanced offensive attack. “It’s really nice when the starting five all show up and you don’t know who’s going to score. It’s nice to see everyone make shots, and it’s something you have to do in March.”
While the Wildcats have now accomplished both a conference championship and a district championship, they’ll only get 24 hours to celebrate the victory before preparing for regional action.
“It’s the 24-hour rule,” said Hall about the time her and her teammates will take to celebrate. “Obviously we’re practicing tomorrow, and our mind is already onto the next game already. But it will be nice to celebrate and enjoy it tonight.”