2018-03-15 / Sports

Column: Madness may turn to magic

Jay Bushen
Sports Editor

What a week.

It certainly was for yours truly. Trips to Maple City last Wednesday, Mancelona last Thursday, Suttons Bay on Friday, Traverse City Central on Monday and Gaylord on Tuesday have my courtside toothpick stash depleted. The 394 minutes of travel time to and from games and a staggering amount of Mountain Dew in that span have worn on me. The madness is real.

The moments are more so.

Basketball fans on the peninsula experienced plenty of those moments with me last week as county teams collected two district titles, a regional championship and seven wins in nine postseason games. People are definitely talking hoops, whether they’re in the stands, at the water cooler or on social media (activity on the Leelanau Sports Facebook page is up 918 percent).

So many anecdotes come to mind. Peyton McDonough’s fourth-quarter ball-handling display in a 49-29 Glen Lake win over Manton. Allie Bonzelet’s defensive effort against all-everything sophomore Elise Stuck in a 66-35 Glen Lake win over Charlevoix. Garrett Shananaquet’s go-ahead free throws in a 45-42 Suttons Bay win over Frankfort. Thomas Hursey’s 17-point fourth quarter in a 72-61 Suttons Bay loss to Hillman. Kaitlyn Schaub’s post moves in a 60-56 win over St. Ignace. That’s just the start of the list — and I was only at five games.

That said, the moment I’ll remember most transpired Friday in the last few seconds of the District 117 boys final.

Of the five games I attended, this had the most open seats, and I can’t blame the average fan. Suttons Bay went 5-11 in the Northwest Conference this year and struggled mightily against the Panthers, losing by 28 points in Frankfort and 44 points in Suttons Bay. Frankfort, on the other hand, went 14-2 in league play and was tabbed as the No. 6 team in Class D. It wasn’t supposed to be a game.

So, with 2.9 ticks left on the clock and Suttons Bay up by three points, all I can do is look around with a dumbfounded smile. I looked at the guy next to me, who I’d never met, and his expression matched mine. The “sports bring communities together” vibe was overwhelming.

Anyway, the horn sounds and the place goes nuts. The bench empties. Coach Ron Anderson is speechless. I’m speechless. The boys are ecstatic.

Leelanau had a Cinderella, and — though her dance ended three days later — it was dumb-foundingly awesome.

Moments like that stick with players, coaches, parents and apparently sleepy sports editors who don’t believe in rooting for teams they cover. I won’t forget that celebration.

I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the unforgettable, either.

My preseason “ride or die,” the Glen Lake girls, have a legitimate shot at the Class C state championship in what is the 40th-anniversary season of the program’s only state title. These battle-tested girls find ways to win — plus I’m told No. 1 Pewamo-Westphalia, the team Glen Lake lost to at the Breslin Center last year, lost one of its top players to injury. It’s anyone’s game at this point, but I’m sticking with the Lady Lakers.

Meanwhile, I can’t even wrap my head around what the Glen Lake boys are doing. The lockdown Lakers are suddenly blowing out top-10 teams by 30 points, making this tournament thing look awfully easy. I’m not about to bet against them, either.

My point?

Leelanau County’s 30-year state title drought may be coming to a close in the coming weeks, and I can’t wait to experience the unforgettable moments.

Somebody get me some toothpicks.

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