Belding wins district title in overtime

By Chip Burch • Last Updated 10:00 am on Monday, March 10, 2014

Belding’s Kole Hart fades away for a shot during Friday’s district final win against Alma.

ELSIE — Belding’s boys basketball team may be under .500 for the season, but they are district champions.

The Redskins outlasted the Alma Panthers in overtime Friday night, winning 59-58 on a Kole Hart jumper with 10 seconds left in the extra period.

The title is the Redskins’ first since the 2009-2010 season.

“In overtime I told the guys it was their time to shine,” Belding coach Jeff Wierzbicki said. “It was about finishing. We had a couple turnovers and a couple of missed free throws and it was all in the past.”

Hart got the game-winner after Alma big man Dylan Carl put back a missed shot with 27 seconds left in overtime.

“We set him up twice,” Wierzbicki said of Hart. “He missed at the end of regulation, but I knew he had it in him. He’s done it all season long, all last year.”

Belding (8-13) allowed the Panthers (12-9) to go on a 6-0 run to open the game and trailed 14-9 after eight minutes. But the Redskins got back into the game thanks to Garrett Strotheide. Strotheide scored 10 of Belding’s 18 points in the second quarter to pull the Redskins to within one at the break.

“We have been in that situation all season long, against the Comstock Parks, the Wyomings, the Coopersvilles,” Wierzbicki said. “Our guys know the situation of being down a little, being able to never quit to make that shot.”

Belding had a short-lived lead shortly after the third quarter started, and the game was back and forth from there.

Belding made up the one point in the third quarter to tie the game at 39.

With one minute left in regulation, Belding’s Nick Price hit a free throw to make it 52-50 Redskins, but with 14 seconds left Alma’s Curtis Doyle put back a missed shot for a 52-all tie. Hart missed a baseline jumper at the buzzer similar to the one he hit in the overtime to get the win.

Strotheide opened the scoring in overtime with his fifth three-pointer, which set a school record for most threes in a season formerly held by Cory Jonker in 2004-05. Jonker had 47, Strotheide has 49.

Belding’s Tye Wittenback (10) elevates above the Alma defense for a close shot during Friday’s district final game.

Doyle hit a layup and Justin Doyle added a breakaway layup for a 56-55 lead. Bryce Wilker hit a bunny with a minute left, only to be countered by Carl with a put back for a 58-57 lead, leading to Hart’s heroics.

“Bryce Wilker with a fantastic game, guarding their (Alma’s) 6-6 and 6-8 guys,” Wierzbicki said.

Strotheide finished with a game-high 31 points.

“He’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever coached,” Wierzbicki said of Strotheide.

No one else had more than eight of the other four Redskin scorers.

The Panthers got 27 from 6-8 Carl and another 12 from 6-6 Justin Doyle.

Belding will now go to Pinconning to face Saginaw Swan Valley, who won the Bridgeport district with a 52-39 win over Birch Run.

“We’ll travel,” Wierzbicki said. “The 14 guys on the bus, the four coaches, the managers, we’ll go anywhere in the state. We fought all year long. It’s time to just continue to go play good basketball.”


Belding    9  18 12 13 7 — 59

Alma 14 14 11 13 6 — 58

BLEDING (8-13) — Wittenbach 3 2-4 8, Strotheide 11 3-3 31, Hart 3 0-4 6, Price 2 3-4 8, Wilker 3 0-0 6. Totals: 21 8-19 59. Three-point goals: Strotheide 5, Price. Total fouls: 15. Fouled out: none.

ALMA (12-9) — Olejniezak 2 2-2 7, J.Doyle 5 3-5 12, Carl 12 3-4 27, Cornejo 1 1-1 3, C.Doyle 3 3-6 9. Totals: 23 12-18 58. Three-point goals: Olejniczak, J.Doyle. Total fouls: 21. Fouled out: none.

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