2017-12-21 / Sports

Bushen: Potential aplenty on peninsula

A column by Jay Bushen
Sports Editor

I’m not “NBA guy.”

Haven’t been since Big Ben Wallace left the Detroit Pistons and signed with the Chicago Bulls in July 2006.

So it’s no surprise I cringe every time I hear the obnoxious, season-long ESPN radio ad hyping NBA coverage: “In a league loaded with superstars and super teams, every matchup is marquee, every moment amazing.”

No thanks.

How can every matchup be “marquee” when the best players play for about five different teams? I’ll pass.

Frankly, I’m far more interested in the parity of prep hoops right here in the northwest Lower Peninsula — and more specifically the potential of teams right here on the Leelanau Peninsula.

Sure, the 2016-17 success of Leelanau County clubs will be tough to top. The Glen Lake boys, Glen Lake girls and Suttons Bay boys each won district championships and the Glen Lake girls made it to the Breslin Center.

All that said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see as much or more success in 2018.

I’ll start with my “ride or die” (my lead-pipe lock to advance further than any county team in March), the Glen Lake girls. Why wouldn’t they be?

I had the pleasure of watching the Lady Lakers take on Cadillac Tuesday night. First things first, that full-court press is the real deal. Allie Bonzelet, Jennifer LaCross and Savannah Peplinski are a point guard’s nightmare, and all three can score. Oh by the way Kaitlyn Schaub is putting up 12.2 points per game and that freshman Hailey Helling is as good as advertised.

I really think this team has a chance to extend its Northwest Conference winning streak to 48 games this winter (although Kingsley may have something to say about that) and return to the state semifinals.

I also think a healthy Glen Lake boys team is more than capable of making a deep playoff push. They’ll have to go through Manton in the district tournament, sure, but keep in mind that district tournament will be played in Maple City. This team is long, athletic, deep, experienced, hungry and talented enough to compete with Buckley for a conference crown.

The St. Mary girls may not have a conference championship to compete for, but they’ll certainly have my attention come tournament time. Led by seniors Hanna Grant and Lexi Schaub, the Lady Eagles are looking like a contender early. This may be the most unselfish team in the county — and it always shows up defensively.

The county’s list of unbeaten teams ends there, but my excitement doesn’t.

The Suttons Bay boys are off to a 1-3 start, but I’m not falling for it. This team has a big three — Thomas Hursey, Garrett Keith and Garrett Shananaquet — that is among the best in the Northwest. The younger players have some growing up to do, but the Norsemen will save their best for last just like they did last year.

I also have high hopes for the Leland boys, who have once again been galvanized by the play of the scoring machine that is Garett Miller. If the Comets improve defensively and find secondary scoring on a consistent basis, watch out.

In Cherryland Conference play, meanwhile, I’m expecting a big year from the Northport boys. The program has won back-to-back Cherryland titles and has the potential to do it again with a senior-loaded roster.

And speaking of senior-loaded rosters and Northport students, keep an eye on the North Bay girls. The team is 3-3 thus far, but I think they’ll only get better as the season rolls along. They’ll have growing pains in the top-heavy Northwest along the way, but they’ll raise some eyebrows in the process.

Another .500 team, the Leland girls, will do the same once they’re healthy. I really think the best is yet to come for Ryan Knudsen’s program, which has zero seniors on the roster.

And the same can be said of the St. Mary boys, one of three county teams playing for a new coach this season. The boys are off to a rough start at 1-4, but they really just need time to practice. This team has raw talent, winnable games on the schedule and a lot to play for. They just need a little time.

Fortunately, there’s a lot of time left.

And even more to be excited about.

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