Greenville girls look to claim outright league title

By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 9:46 am on Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Greenville’s Megan O’Brien brings the ball up the court during a game early this season. Greenville can clinch the O-K Bronze Conference title outright with a win tonight at home against Forest Hills Eastern.

GREENVILLE — The Greenville Yellow Jackets girls basketball team is just one win away from clinching an outright O-K Bronze championship.

Friday’s win at Cedar Springs gave the Yellow Jackets at least a share of the title. Not to be selfish, but the Yellow Jackets want that title for themselves and no one else. All Greenville needs to do is defeat Forest Hills Central tonight at home.

Greenville (15-3, 7-1) defeated Eastern 49-29 on the road Jan. 25. Forest Hills Northern is second in the league at 5-3 (9-9 overall).

“One of the things we talked about was to keep getting better in the month of February. And I think the girls have done that,” Greenville coach Eric Nichols said. “We’ve played well in longer spurts and that is a positive thing.”

A win tonight would be the girls first league title since 1990, when they went 20-3 overall. That was also the last district title in girls basketball, as well.

Greenville’s defense has dominated all season long. Not once has the Yellow Jackets given up more than 50 points this season. Forest Hills Central scored 48 points in an overtime win in early January.

The defensive pressure takes plenty of time off the clock and has kept some of Greenville’s scores down, as well. Greenville has topped 50 points twice, with a high of 54 against rival Belding in December.

Greenville junior Nikota Howe grabs a rebound and looks for an open teammate during a game this year.

“Offensively, I have seen so much growth in being able to recognize situations, recognize isolations and those kinds of things,” Nichols said. “Maybe a year ago, the girls had trouble seeing that. That has been fun from the teaching standpoint of the game is to see them see that on their own now.”

Greenville’s lone losses are by four in overtime at Forest Hills Central (12-4), at Grand Rapids Christian (15-3) and at Forest Hills Northern (9-9) by two on the road.

In addition to winning a conference title, the Yellow Jackets had goals of going undefeated at home and winning a district title.

“It (conference title) was one of the team goals we had this year and we still have some left,” Nichols said. “If we take care of business Tuesday we will send the senior group out without a loss at home. Our other goals will keep us focused after the conference final.”

The Yellow Jackets will finish the season 8-0 at home with a win tonight.

Greenville’s 15 wins — with two games remaining — are fourth most wins in a season in school history. Twice Greenville has won 20 (1981, 1990), twice 17 (1976, 1978) and once 16 (1991).

Looking ahead, two more wins during the regular season and three in the district tourney and Greenville would reach the 20 win total.

“We want to continue to be solid defensively like we have been, take care of the basketball and just be consistent,” Nichols said. “That’s what I hope we will do.”

Greenville will close out the regular season on Friday at Grand Rapids West Catholic (6-12). They will face Lowell in the first round of the district title at Forest Hills Northern on Monday.

Forest Hills Central is on the other side of the bracket, while both teams are expected to reach the finals.

With just nine players on its roster — including the injured Rachel Nanzer — the Yellow Jackets have a chemistry that many teams do not.

“Our chemistry has been good. For the number of years I’ve coach, I’ve always said I’ll take chemistry over talent any day,” Nichols said. “With this group it has been fun. They work hard in practice and all get along off the court.

“Even Rachel, who has been hurt all year, still comes to practice and helps out. She does the little things that need to be done and that’s what is neat about this group,” he added.

Tonight’s game starts at 7:30 p.m. following the boys varsity game.

O-K Bronze standings

Greenville    7-1    15-3
FH Northern    5-3    9-9
FH Eastern    4-4    10-8
Cedar Springs    4-4    8-10
Northview    2-6    8-9
GR West Catholic    2-6    6-12

Today’s games

FH Eastern at Greenville
FH Northern at GR West Catholic
Cedar Springs at Northview

Friday’s games

Greenville at GR West Catholic
FH Northern at Cedar Springs
FH Eastern at Northview

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