By Sean Budlong
In 2011, the Schoolcraft boys’ basketball team went undefeated and won the Class C Championship. Six years later, the Eagles basketball team is again poised for a long post-season run. Currently ranked 12th in Class C, the 17-1 Eagles are entering the State playoffs on a 13-game winning streak.
The Eagles offense has generated impressive numbers. During the current winning streak, Schoolcraft has been held to less than 60 points just once in a 58-56 victory over Kalamazoo Christian. The Eagles have averaged 76 points since the January 10th loss to Kalamazoo Hackett when the offense only scored 39 points.
Schoolcraft is not a one-dimensional offense. Caleb Eustice is clearly the top long-distance shooting threat, shooting 45.2 percent from three-point distance. It was Eustice’s three-point basket with 20 seconds left in the first half at Christian that gave the Eagles the first lead of the night. He delivered the game-winning shot with less than 30 seconds left. Teams that focus too much on Eustice find out quickly that the Eagles back court is more than a one-man show. Max Kulczyk (7.6 points per game on 42 percent shooting) and Ricky Clark (13.7 points per game on 52 percent shooting) can take over a game.
The Eagles post players have really stepped up their game over the last month. Jason Feddema, Matt Schuppel, and Blake Bales have played outstanding defense while adding needed baskets. They have averaged almost nine rebounds per game.
While the offense has gotten the attention of the fans, it’s the defense that has made the difference. The Eagles have given up an average of 39 points in the last 13 games. During this streak, only Christian and Vicksburg have scored more than 50 points and five teams have been held to less than 30 points.
How deep Schoolcraft plays in March will be determined by its ability to get contributions from the deep bench. When the Eagles beat Vicksburg 82-73, Eustice hit 4 early three-point shots (on his way to a game high 29). Vicksburg spent the rest of the game focused on Eustice, which freed up Clark to score 20 points, and Riley Piper added 12.
The victory over fourth ranked Kalamazoo Hackett shows how far these Eagles have come this season. During the 50-39 loss, Teddy Oosterbaan and Heath Baldwin dominated the paint, scoring a combined 29 points. Schoolcraft generated a total of 10 points from the post. The rematch on February 21 was a complete flip of this script. The Eagles held the lead from start to finish, and Feddema, Schuppel, and Bales never allowed Oosterbaan (6 points) to impact the game. While not eligible to play during the loss due to transfer rules, Eustice scored 22 in the win. Kulczyk added 14 points, Clark 8 points, and Feddema 7.
Nothing will come easy to Schoolcraft once the playoffs begin. It is likely that the Eagles will face Hackett once more. The winner of that game may end up with the Championship trophy on March 25 at the Breslin Center.