By Michael C. Reed
Vicksburg High School’s varsity boys’ basketball team was 3-6 overall at the season’s midpoint. Coach Shawn McGuire believes this was partly due to the fact that only three of the team’s first nine games have been at home (the team is 1-2 in home games).
“We knew January was going to be a tough month,” McGuire says. “The team is still looking for consistent offense—somebody to step up with 20 points—and a tighter defense at the end of games.” There are still eleven games to be played, including a home game against Wolverine Conference powerhouse Otsego, which has three starters who are 7’, 6’6”, and 6’5”. McGuire predicts that the second half of the Bulldogs’ season is going to be better.
The Bulldogs started strong with three wins in December—against Schoolcraft, 53-41; Three Rivers, 58-54; and Allegan, 68-19. Since then, the team has dropped five straight, and everyone is understandably frustrated. During January, the team has lost to Portage Northern (69-50), Paw Paw (59-54), Otsego (72-40), Dowagiac (62-42) and Plainwell (64-58).
McGuire’s 10-man squad consists of seven seniors and three sophomores, meaning that next season may be very challenging with no senior players returning. Almost all of the boys on the squad also play football and baseball at Vicksburg High. McGuire says that all ten players play every game, and everyone has started at least one game.
The coach notes that several players have stood out thus far in the season: Senior Mitchell VanSchoick “is our best outside shooter, a good catch and shoot player who makes 3-point shots. He consistently scores about 10 points a game.” Senior Jarrad Whited, who is big and strong at 6’ and 220 pounds, was first-team, all-state in football and is a good rebounder who gives the team 7-8 rebounds per game. Finally, Blake Rankin, a sophomore point guard, is our “leader on the floor.”
Remaining games include division contests against Sturgis (two games), Three Rivers, Otsego, Allegan, and Plainwell. The final game of the season is what is called the “cross-over” game, meaning Vicksburg will play the team in the West that has the same place in the standings.
Players to watch in the second half of the season include sophomore Brenden Lovell, who scored 13 points at Plainwell on January 23; senior P.J. Callahan, who is capable of showing more consistency; and Conner Henderson, a senior who is a “great offensive player.” McGuire also points to sophomore DeOndre Lovell who, at 5’10”, can do a legitimate spinning dunk. Nobody else on the team can consistently dunk the ball.
McGuire says that the Wolverine Conference is strong this year. The West division has more depth, but the East has Otsego, the best overall team in the conference. The Bulldogs currently are in third place in the East Division with a record of 2-2.
This is McGuire’s fifth year as boys’ varsity coach. Previously he coached girls’ varsity basketball for eight years. He has also coached middle school boys and girls basketball. He teaches social studies at Vicksburg Middle School.