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How Saugatuck basketball topped rival Fennville for first time since 2017

Saugatuck's Will Ayers celebrates a Saugatuck offensive run as they head to a timeout Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, at Saugatuck High School.
Saugatuck's Will Ayers celebrates a Saugatuck offensive run as they head to a timeout Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, at Saugatuck High School.

SAUGATUCK - The Saugatuck boys basketball team withstood a furious Fennville run in the first half.

Unfazed, the Trailblazers started the second half on their own scoring run to take the lead, then another run put the game away as Saugatuck defeated Fennville 54-41 in a rare Monday night rivalry showdown at Saugatuck.

It was the first win for the Trailblazers in the rivalry series since 2017, something the team was well aware of.

"This win was really important to us. We haven't won in this rivalry in six years, so it means a lot to the players in those years who didn't get a win," Saugatuck's Russell VandePoel said. "We were playing for each other, something more than ourselves. We had a lot of energy in the second half, and we just kept it going."

Saugatuck's Carter Miller takes a shot over the Fennville defense Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, at Saugatuck High School.
Saugatuck's Carter Miller takes a shot over the Fennville defense Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, at Saugatuck High School.

Saugatuck coach Brian Ward made sure the kids didn't forget the rivalry history.

"It has been since March 2, 2017, and I know because I wrote it on the white board at 8 a.m. when I got to school. This was a big message for our guys," Ward said. "The most important guy we were playing for was Will Ayers. He is our only senior on the roster and this was his last home game against Fennville. He deserved to go out with a win. This was huge."

In the third quarter, Saugatuck's Matt Hartgerink scored in transition to give the Trailblazers a 25-24 lead.

Carter Miller added a basket and Russell VandePoel scored after a steal then hit a couple of free throws and it was 31-24, a 10-0 run to start the third quarter.

"In the first half, we settled for outside shots, but in the second half, we really focused on getting to the basket and finishing," VandePoel said.

Miller hit two straight 3s and it was 37-26 with 2:41 to go in the third.

Fennville's Maxwell Machado hit a couple of 3s and the Blackhawks pulled within 39-34 going into the fourth quarter.

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A couple of quick baskets in transition for Saugatuck (10-5) made it a double-digit lead.

"We didn't take care of the ball, and they ran with the momentum. That is what happens in these (rivalry) games, the emotions can get the best of you," Fennville coach Matthew Sanchez said. "It was a learning game for us, and we will take this and grow from it. But we kept fighting, and that is all we could have asked."

Saugatuck started strong in the first quarter, leading 5-0 then 7-2.

But Ben Peterson, coming off a game where he scored his 1,000th career point, nailed two 3-pointers in a row, then scored in the paint after a steal and it was 10-7 Blackhawks.

Saugatuck's Ben Peterson takes a shot from three during a game against rival Saugatuck Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, at Saugatuck High School.
Saugatuck's Ben Peterson takes a shot from three during a game against rival Saugatuck Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, at Saugatuck High School.

Ayers hit a 3 to tie it, but Fennville's Juan Porrez answered with a 3. Fennville's Aidan Swingle scored on a putback at the first-quarter buzzer and led 15-10.

Machado hit a 3 to push Fennville's lead to 20-12 midway through the second quarter. The Blackhawks went 6-for-10 from 3-point range to start the game.

Saugatuck scored nine straight points to pull within 22-21. Then Peterson hit a pull-up jumper to stop the run and the Blackhawks led 24-21 at halftime.

Peterson finished with 15 points for the Blackhawks (5-11). Porrez had 10 and Machado scored eight

For Saugatuck, VandePoel scored 13, Miller had 12, Hartgerink had 11, Landon Miller scored eight and Ayers chipped in with five.

"They shot great in the first half. We knew we weren't shooting that well, but we had to stick the course and believe in the game plan," Ward said. "We made some adjustments in our zone to make sure we were shading Ben (Peterson) a little more. If anyone was going to beat us with 3s late in the game it was going to be anyone but him. It was a really good turnaround for us."

Contact sports editor Dan D’Addona at Dan.D’Addona@hollandsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanDAddona or Facebook @HollandSentinelSports.

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Saugatuck basketball topped rival Fennville for first time since 2017