Category Archives: Sports

Schoolcraft Wrestlers Compete at the State Level

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Mark Fox wrestles in the state championship finals for Schoolcraft. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

By Mark Blentlinger

Four Schoolcraft Eagle wrestlers made their way to Detroit’s Ford Field on March 6 and 7, to compete in the MHSAA state Individual wrestling championships. They were senior Caden Sukich, 119 lbs, 47-4 record; junior Hunter Martens, 125 lbs, 47-4 record; junior Gary Cramer, 130 lbs, 25-7 and senior Mark Fox, 160 lbs, 34-5.

First up was Sukich, facing off against Darren Gostlin, 24-9, of Evert. Caden was able to dominate his match, getting a pin at the 4:52 mark. The win would put Sukich back on the mat in the winner’s bracket against Jayden Williams, 46-4, of Kent City. That match went the entire six minutes; Caden came out the victor once again with a score of 15-11. Caden’s next match was in the semifinals. A win would have put him in the state championship. Despite his best efforts, it was not to be. Sukich’s match against Zack Hall, 50-4 of Byron, would go the distance with Sukich coming out on the wrong end of the deal, losing a decision match 2-7. Caden found himself wrestling in the 3rd place match against Williams of Kent City again. Sukich just couldn’t get things rolling and lost the match 1-9, placing him in 4th place for the second straight year.

Hunter Martens would start his first two matches just like Sukich, winning against Michael Mausolf, 37-17 of Ubly, with a pin at the 2:38 mark. His next opponent would be Connor Fitzpatrick, 36-12 of Jackson Lumen Christi. Hunter took the match the distance and beat Williams with a nailbiter, 6-5. That win sent him into the semifinal. His competitor for that match was the number one seed for the tournament, Jaron Johnson, 41-0 of Carson City. Although Martens would take it the whole match, he still fell short, losing 2-6. Martens took the mat again for 3rd place, where he would face off against Drew Gebhardt, 54-4 of Manchester. Hunter just couldn’t seem to accomplish anything he tried and lost 0-8. That loss sent him into competition for 5th place against Bradley Russel, 47-13 of Union City. The match went back and forth. In the last 45 seconds, Martens earned one point for an escape, tying the match, 4-4. Both wrestlers vied for the elusive one point for the win. With 2 seconds remaining, Martens was able to escape Russel’s hold, giving him the one point to win the match, 5-4, and a 5th place finish.

Gary Cramer made his first appearance on the big stage of Ford Field. His first match him pitted against Jordan Koetje, 36-12, from Pine River. Although Cramer did his best, he just couldn’t seem to get any advantage and lost his first match 0-2. Gary wasn’t out of it just yet. Next, he would face off against River Robertson, 36-13 from Hesperia. Cramer would take this match by a score of 3-2. He then faced off against another Hesperia wrestler, Mack Baird, 41-8. Unfortunately, this match would end as one of the shortest in the tournament, at 29 seconds into the first period, ending Cramer’s experience at the 2020 state tournament.

Last up for the Eagle Grapplers was Mark Fox, in the 160lb division. Fox first wrestled Nick Phillips, 35-9 of Manchester. The match went the entire distance, but Fox came up shy on points and dropped that one, 4-6. In the consolation bracket, he faced off against Jacob Gribbell, 32-14 from Newberry. Fox easily handled his wrestler and won 16-6. Mark needed to keep up the intensity to get back into contention for a podium spot. Next up, was Cole Hopkins, 38-6 of Evert. The match did not fall in Fox’s favor. He found himself in a position that he rarely experienced and was pinned at the 3:15 point in the match. Mark ended his high school career with over 150 wins.

Bulldogs Advance to District Finals – Everything Cancelled

Jacob Conklin brings the ball down the court with Kyle Rose, number 54 in the lead against Three Rivers. Photo by Travis Smola.

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg varsity boys’ basketball team found themselves in a shootout with rival Three Rivers in District semifinal play on March 11.

The Bulldogs were able to rally and pad out their lead late for a 63-58 victory over the Wildcats. It was their third win of the year over their rival. The difficulty of doing that wasn’t lost on Head Coach Josh Noble.

“Every game they have a late lead,” he said of the Three Rivers team. “It’s getting to the point where I’m glad we can move on from them because that is a good team,” Noble said. “They have two players that are at the top of their conference, their coach has done a good job with those guys.”

The teams were evenly matched in the contest. Three Rivers jumped out to a 14-8 lead after the first period. The two teams traded the lead back and forth 12 times in the contest as each team struggled to gain momentum over the other. At the end of two periods it was 33-31 Vicksburg and at the end of three it was 40-42 in Three Rivers’ favor.

In the end, it was the incredible three-point shooting of Jacob Conklin and Levi Root that was the difference-maker. Each sunk five threes on their way to 21 and 20 points respectively. Most of Root’s shots came very late in the game to seal the victory and help deflate the hopes of the Wildcats.

“My job was easy. I looked at the guys and said, ‘Just get it done,’ and they did,” Noble said. “Between him (Root), Conklin and Kyle Rose, we’ve got as good of a chance as any.”

Rounding out the scoring for the Bulldogs was Rose with nine points, Dillon Shook with five and Parker Wilson with three. Ethan Buscher and Lucas Hatridge both had two and Chase Myers had one successful free throw.

“We’ve just matched in three days the amount of playoff wins we’ve had in the last 15 years,” Noble commented.

The Bulldogs will not now play in the District Final on Friday. It was cancelled. “I feel very blessed, I’m looking forward to celebrating with the guys (tonight),” Noble said. “It’s one of those games where I don’t celebrate often, but that was fun.”

Kelsey Diekman Signs to Play Softball for K College

Kelsey Diekman signs to play softball for Kalamazoo College next year. Her mom, Lisa, and dad, Doug, stand on either side of her.

By Sue Moore

Kelsey Diekman has been playing softball since she was four years old. She has been a winner on and off the field with her talents for sports and making friends. A goodly number of her close friends showed up in Vicksburg at her signing ceremony. The Vicksburg High School senior plans to play softball for Kalamazoo College in the spring of 2021 where they will also be able to cheer her on.

Kalamazoo College Coach Kelli Duimstra said, “Kelsey is a super versatile player that excels offensively, defensively (in multiple positions), and in the pitching circle. She’s the type of player that can come in and make an impact right away as a freshman. She’s also a great person off the field. She’s exactly the type of person and player I want in my program. I couldn’t be more excited for her to be a Hornet.”

Diekman started her playing days in Mendon. The family moved to Vicksburg when she was in fifth grade, where her mom, Lisa Diekman, was coaching in Little League. “She gave me all the tools and opportunity, encouraging me at every step of the way,” Kelsey said. Her sisters, Danielle and Madison, also played softball, making it easier for the three to practice at home. Younger brother Jordan also plays football, basketball and baseball.

At age 14, Diekman moved her talents to Mystique, a travel team based out of South Bend, where she played first base and did some pitching. Her sister, Danielle, plays centerfield on the travel team. Kelsey plays first base on the Bulldogs softball team but can play other positions as well. “There was so much more competition with this travel team and they have amazing coaches,” Diekman said. Because she was traveling to South Bend to play, she had set her sights on St. Mary’s College to further her education. Then Coach Duimstra from Kalamazoo College saw her play in a Vicksburg vs. Portage Central game last spring and came calling.

“We would love to have you play for us,” Duimstra said – and that was the deciding factor for Kelsey. “They really came after me, showing caring on my campus tour and at their softball camps.” Diekman accepted the offer of an academic scholarship. She holds a 4.0 GPA at Vicksburg. She plans to major in biology, taking pre-med with a goal of becoming an OB/GYN doctor. She will live on campus.

Boys Basketball Season Upended by the Coronavirus

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Stephen Schultz drives toward the basket against Galesburg. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

By Mark Blentlinger

The Schoolcraft Boys basketball team had high hopes at the beginning of the 2019-20 season. They posted a perfect record in the SAC Valley Division at 12-0 in conference play and 19-0 overall.

In the beginning of District play, Schoolcraft faced off against Hackett Catholic in the semi-final. Little did anyone know at the time, that March 11th would be the last time that seniors Kobe Clark, Trevor DeGroote, Steven Schultz and Aiden Hursey would get to play on their home court and in an Eagle uniform.

Their record increased to 21-0, beating the Irish 64-49, in front of 1,000 fans, ensuring their play in the district championship game against Kalamazoo Christian, a team they had already beaten twice during the season.

The Eagles had not had a season this good since the 2011 team that finished as the Class C State Champions. Even though the Eagles were ranked 4th in the state, they, along with the Schoolcraft girls’ team, looked to be going a long way in the 2019-20 tournament.

A SAC Valley Championship is a tremendous accomplishment, according to Coach Randy Small. They are also the only team in the state left undefeated. The team had plans of not stopping until they were holding up that State Championship trophy at the Breslin Center. Then calamity as all further games were cancelled, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

As of press time, the MHSAA had not published any more information on the status of the remainder of the winter season or the spring season. It is still under suspension, not cancelled. No one can predict if this season will continue. The 2019-20 Basketball season may go down in the record books with no winner crowned.

The Eagles were able to get some recognition with Kobe Clark, Bryce VanderWeire and Tyler DeGroote, all earning 1st Team All-Conference and Ty Rykse with Honorable Mention.

If this season is unable to continue and is cancelled, players and fans all over the state will always wonder “What if?”. And in Schoolcraft, the 2019-20 basketball teams will always be remembered and cheered as champions!

Schoolcraft Girls Win District Basketball Championship

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Gabi Saxman dribbles around her opponent to make a bucket for Schoolcraft. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

By Mark Blentlinger

Schoolcraft girls’ basketball record stands at 20-2 with the final outcome for the season in a coronavirus limbo.

In the first week of playoffs, the girls knocked off the Bulldogs of Centreville, 38-31, to give the Eagles their fifth District title in six years. Their next competitors in the Regional semi-final match on March 10 were the Tigers of Gobles.

Those in attendance weren’t let down from either side, with a heart-pounding, nail-biting display from two very talented teams.

Gobles would open up the night by going on a quick 6-0 run. Schoolcraft’s Alli Walther then started putting up shots, making five in a row. The Tigers were able to shut the Eagles down again and go on their own 8-0 run. By the time halftime arrived, the score was 20-20. The third quarter would see the Tigers go on a 10-2 run that gave them an eight-point advantage at the end of three.

The Eagles were able to calm down and again go on a run of 8-0 in the early stages of the 4th, but the Tigers were not going to just roll over. With three minutes remaining, the Tigers looked strong and were up 36-31. The Eagles started to bounce back with a 3-pointer by senior Gabi Saxman. This got the Eagle fans roaring and brought the team within two with 2:10 remaining on the clock. The Eagles controlled on a jump ball with the possession arrow on their side. A solid pass into the corner from Saxman went to fellow senior Savannah Seath. With no hesitation and solid concentration, Seath’s third triple sent the Eagles bench and fans into a frenzy.

The Tigers tried to inbound a pass, but not before the five seconds expired, making them turn the ball back over to the Eagles. With their game in peril, the Tigers fouled Saxman, sending her to the line. The senior sank both shots. After another foul on Saxman, resulting in one out of two shots made, the Tigers found themselves down 42-39, with 16 seconds left in the season.

Gobles tried for a couple 3-pointers missing the mark each time. The Tiger’s Libbee Nason, put up a rebound for two. Without any fouls, it just wasn’t enough and the Eagles won 42-41.

Eagle leading scorers were Gabi Saxman with 13, Allie Walther with 10 and Savannah Seath with 9.

The Tigers’ leading scorers were Libbee Nason with 19 and Christiana Hunt with 9. SAC Valley 1st team All Conference players from Schoolcraft were Gabi Saxman, Anna Schupel and Mackenzie Miller. Honorable mention went to Allie Walther.

The win over Gobles would see a 3rd meeting in the 2020 season between the Eagles and the Irish from Hackett Catholic prep, this one for the Regional Championship.

Unfortunately, that may not happen. They will have to wait on the decision of the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) with the remainder of play on hold.

Schoolcraft Boys Basketball Undefeated Through February

By Mark Blentlinger

Coach Randy Small and the rest of the Schoolcraft boys’ varsity basketball coaching staff, including Adam Sziede and Caleb Eustice, led the talented Eagles team to the first undefeated conference record since 2013, going 12-0 and 19-0 overall. On February 25, the Eagles made their way south to face off against the Falcons of Constantine. The first meeting in January between these two teams saw the Falcons keep the Eagles to their lowest score of the season, 45-31, only allowing the Eagles 45 points on their home court.

Schoolcraft was not going to allow that to happen again. This time on the Falcons home court, the Eagles topped the Falcons 74-29.  Bryce VanderWeire was the Eagles’ leading scorer with 20. Trevor DeGroote followed VanderWiere with 17 and Kobe Clark had 15. The next team that might stand in the way of an undefeated regular season: the Panthers of Penfield, when they visit the gym at Schoolcraft High on March 3.  If the Eagles are able to hold off the Panthers, it will be their first undefeated regular season since 2010-2011, when the Eagles won the class C state championship, topping McBain 73-59.

In the month of February alone the Eagles have outscored their opponents by 270 points, scoring 554 and only allowing 284. Schoolcraft will be hosting the boys’ basketball district 79 tournament, starting on March 9 at 5:30 p.m. Competing  teams will be Galesburg-Augusta, Kalamazoo Christian, Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep, Marcellus and Schoolcraft.

Basketball Team Has Good Chemistry

By Sue Moore

The 2019-20 edition of the Schoolcraft Eagles boys basketball team has the right chemistry holding it together to become champions if all goes well, according to long-time Coach Randy Small. “When you are winning, everybody is having fun.”

“You know if you don’t have that glue that makes for a winning team,” Small said. “This group gets along together, hangs out together and works out together in the weight room. It helps to include the role players alongside our starters. It’s all about their work ethic. It gains credibility with the players when they see each other working so hard with their conditioning.”

The team is 19-0 with one more game to play before entering the tournaments, with high expectations. “Senior Kobe Clark sets the tone and knows what to do and what is expected of him. Junior Bryce VanderWiere, at 6’7”, runs the floor well, works hard and gives the most consistent effort. He doesn’t take plays off and is averaging 9 ½ rebounds per game,” said his coach, adding that his stat line and performance reflect his work ethic. “Tyler Rykse and Tyler DeGroote play the wings with Trevor DeGroote and VanderWiere in the post.”

Offensively, the team is getting better and on defense plays do the little things well as the season has worn on.

It’s hard not to compare this team to Small’s other two championship seasons, one in 2009 and the other in 2011 when they won the state class C championship. The 2011 team was fast and scrappy. This one resembles the 2009 team because they are a lot taller and their style of play is similar.

Small has 30 years of coaching experience. He coached the Marcellus varsity until coming to Schoolcraft as an assistant coach in 2000. He took over the varsity in 2004 and coached the girls one year when his dad was sick. He’s been back with the boys since 2015. “Maybe it’s my relationship with the kids as I like to relate to them as people, seeing how important the little things are within our system and the respect we build. We have two hours of practice each day. It is highly structured. We time everything. I’ve learned over the years not to go overtime. The kids want to know when they will be done,” Small declared.

“I want the kids to be committed, come to every practice and be coachable. This group has the chemistry to succeed. It’s the glue that holds them all together,” Small said.

Schoolcraft Girls Basketball Enters Tournament Play 18-2

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Savannah Seath, (#5) is introduced during her first game back in uniform after injury. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

By Mark Blentlinger

The lady Eagle basketball team has been working its way through competitor after competitor since the February break. The team defeated Vicksburg 55-29, Battle Creek Calhoun Christian 69-47, Lawton 63-18 and Hackett Catholic Central 41-32.

Even the best teams will have a night where things just don’t seem to go their way. On Valentine’s day, the Eagles had one of those nights, dropping a heartbreaker 54-45 to the Comets from Kalamazoo Christian, a team they had already defeated earlier in the season 32-22. This would be the girls’ second loss of the season after dropping to Edwardsburg in the season’s first game. After this loss, the team was able to get its focus back and start adding up wins again.

The Bronson Vikings would be first up to face a refueled team of Eagles. Although the Vikings were able to put down more 3’s than the Eagles, it still wasn’t enough. They were able to defeat the Vikings 56-48. Gabi Saxman and Anna Schuppel were the leading scorers for the Eagle attack, both dropping 13, followed by Adrienne Rosey, putting up 10.

Coach Kulczyk has gotten the team headed back in the right direction with wins over Galesburg and Constantine where the Eagles posted wins in dominating fashion. They beat the visiting Rams 63-25 and the Falcons 69-35. Leading scorers for the Eagles against the Falcons were Gabi Saxman, 21; Allie Walther, 18 and Makenzie Miller, 9. With the win against the Falcons, Coach Kulczyk has led the lady Eagles to their 3rd consecutive league title. They sport a 17-2 overall record and a 11-1 league record.

In the last game of the season, the Lady Eagles crushed Benton Harbor, 56-18, ending with 18-2 overall. The girls got the bye into the district semifinal. They will play Marcellus March 4 at 7:30 p.m. in Centreville.

Savannah Seath’s Triumphant Return to Action

On February 21, the 9-9 Rams of Galesburg came into the gym of the Schoolcraft Eagles to compete at the Eagles’ Homecoming. They weren’t expecting they’d need to guard senior Savannah Seath, who hasn’t been able to play since last season’s devastating knee injury.

On a March 4, 2019 game against Gobles, Seath suffered injuries that would end the career of most athletes. After major surgery, she was faced with the possibility she might never play basketball again. She was told at the earliest, she might play in 18 months – not an acceptable amount of time for her. Trainer Jordan Love said Seath did agility and strength drills to build up the knee, but not running. She did keep up her shooting skills while she was in rehabilitation.

She showed a desire to be back on the court with her teammates with her never-give-up attitude, Coach Kulczyk said. With her doctors, physical therapists and Jordan Love helping, she was able to hit the floor dressed and ready to go in 11 months not 18.

She only played for five minutes of the first half of the game, but what a five minutes: Her first shot went for 3 points. All of her points that night went in for 3’s, going 4 for 6 with 12 total points. The Eagles were able to dominate the Rams and take the game 63-24. Other leading scorers for the Eagles were Mackenzie Miller, with 18 and Gabi Saxman, with 16.

Four Schoolcraft Wrestlers to Compete in the State Finals

By Mark Blentlinger

After finishing the season with a record of 8-1, Schoolcraft’s wrestling team’s only loss came at the hands of the SAC regular season champions, Constantine. There were plenty of highs during the Eagles wrestling season; for the second year in a row senior Silver Fox competed in the all-girls State wrestling championships at Adrian college and was able to match her last season’s 3rd place.

Senior Mark Fox will be heading back to Ford field again this season with a 3rd place at regionals in the 160-pound weight class. Fox hit a milestone during this season when he got his 150th win at the regional championships on Saturday February 22. Also heading to Detroit will be fellow senior Caden Suckich, who also hit the 150-win milestone earlier in the 2020 season. Suckich had a tough match at the regional championship, dropping his final matchup 3-2 to the number 1 ranked wrestler in the state, Ben Modert of Bronson, at 119 pounds. Joining Fox and Suckich will be regional champion Hunter Martens, at 125 pounds. Rounding out the wrestlers that coach Rob Ling will be helping in Detroit is Gary Cramer, who finished 3rd at regionals in the 130-pound weight class. All four of the Eagle grapplers will be in Detroit on March 6th and 7th hoping they can follow in the footsteps of last season’s Eagle state champion, River Fox.

The Fox family tree has been blessed with champion wrestlers. Silver and River Fox are siblings, and Mark Fox is their cousin. Their proud grandfather, Skip Fox, served on the Schoolcraft School Board for many years.

Bulldogs Pick Up Huge Win Over Sturgis

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg varsity boys’ basketball team avenged an early season loss to Sturgis during Homecoming with a resounding 65-51 victory over the Trojans.

Last time the Bulldogs faced Sturgis, they ended up with 31 turnovers. The team brought a renewed sense of energy. That word has been something of a team mantra in the second half of the season.

“The last two or three games that’s been our word. Just energy,“ Head Coach Josh Noble said after the game.

At the start, it looked like things were going to be close, but Vicksburg quickly pulled away for a 17-9 lead after the first quarter. The Bulldogs extended that lead to 36-25 at the half. In the third, the team slowly pulled away as a raucous crowd cheered them on.

“To come back a few weeks later and show up really pushes us towards the end of the season and I’m really happy for the guys,” Noble said. “They did a great job.”

Noble said several of the boys were banged up with injuries, but it didn’t show in their performance. Most notably with Kyle Rose, who scored 20 in the contest. Parker Wilson and Dillon Shook were not far behind him with 12 apiece.

Jacob Conklin was also playing through injury, but still managed to score 11 points. Drake Steele added four points for the Bulldogs. Ethan Buscher, Lucas Hatridge and Chase Myers each had two. Myers also had several key steals that ultimately led to Bulldog points.

Overall, the team seemed poised and patient. This was especially evident in their passing, something Noble said they’ve been focusing on in practice.

“They’re starting to buy into what you do in practice shows up in the game and I can’t be more proud of the way that they showed up,” Noble said.

The Bulldogs are now 8-11 overall. They dropped their three games to South Haven, Dowagiac and Three Rivers, before a 69-57 win over Parchment. In their latest game, the boys played a close one against Edwardsburg that went to overtime where they ultimately fell to the Eddies 48-38.

The team still should have some good momentum as the season wraps up.

“We want to get to Districts with a good amount of momentum and we’ve got six more games to see if we can do that,” Noble said after the Sturgis game. “It’s really easy to get them motivated when they play that way.”