17-0 times two

The Greenville Yellow Jackets boys basketball team are just three wins away from a perfect regular season. Now 17-0, finishing the year perfect would be an incredible accomplishment.

Amazingly, this is not the first 17-0 Greenville team I’ve witnessed. The 2000-2001 Yellow Jackets also began the year 17-0.

That team consisted of the likes of Zach Ingles, Taylor Jorgensen, Brian Albert, Joel Evans, Kody Taylor, Blake Russell and others.

They played in the Mid-Michigan A division against Ionia, St. Johns, Owosso and Mount Pleasant. Crossover games with the Mid-Michigan B were against Corunna, Alma, Cheasaning, Durand and Ovid-Elsie.

In 2001, the Yellow Jackets reached sixth in the AP basketball poll. St. Johns, Ionia and Corunna were also ranked in the top 10.

They did not finish the year undefeated as they lost their last three games at St. Johns, at Corunna and home against Mount Pleasant.

According to Ingles, St. Johns was 16-1 —  only loss was to Greenville — when the 17 game winning streak ended. Corunna was undefeated and Mount Pleasant was near 15 wins at the time.

The Yellow Jackets defeated Lowell in the first round of districts, but lost to Forest Hills Northern in the semifinals. Northern ended up losing to Rockford in the district finals.

“We were very offensive oriented. We were very good offensively and averaged in the 80s,” Ingles said. “We pressed off of makes, we pressed off of misses and we scored pretty easily. No zone, it was all man-to-man defense.”

That was my first year in the Greenville area. I had moved from metro Detroit in January 2001 to take the job as sports director of then WSCG Radio — now WGLM.

It was a heck of a way to start a broadcast career watching a team roll through the schedule the way they did. I did not see the final three regular season games, as I had to head home due to the illness of my mother.

I remember they were a fun team to watch. I don’t remember a lot of details outside of a few. I never expected to be around this long or to make this area my permanent home, but I have.

I do remember one of the best games I’ve ever seen. It was at Ionia, the Yellow Jackets were down seven with less than two minutes to go. Ingles went off and tied the game. Jorgensen won it in overtime after a steal and layup.

Ingles went on to play college basketball and professional ball in Europe, Iceland and Argentina. He is now an assistant coach at Grand Rapids Community College.

Still living in the area, Ingles has watched many of the current Jackets’ games. He said they are extremely athletic and big.

“They are fun to watch. It’s a different Greenville team from any team we’ve had,” Ingles said. “They play on the rim. For the first time, maybe in the history of Greenville basketball, when the ball is on the rim Greenville is at the advantage.”

The question I hear most is can the Yellow Jackets go undefeated? Ingles thinks they can.

“I think they can and hope they do,” Ingles said of running the table. “It’s great to see the community around them. This is exactly what small town community basketball is about. It will be tough because you will get everyone’s best the rest of the way.”

The current Yellow Jackets already clinched a share of the O-K White Conference title with last week’s win over Grand Rapids Christian. They can win the league outright with a home win tonight against Lowell.

The league championship was the first in school history since 1993. That team went 18-5 overall and 12-2 in the Seaway Conference.

Beginning on March 5, the Yellow Jackets will be looking for its first district title since 1983. That team won a school record 20 games against three losses and won both league and district titles.

Greenville went 19-2 in 1972 for the second most wins in school history. In all, they have won 18 games four times and 17 games twice including this year.

According to the Greenville Public Schools website, the Yellow Jackets have won 13 conference titles, 23 district titles, four regional titles and was state runnerup in 1919.

The current Yellow Jackets are already in select company. Regardless of how tough it is to distinguish teams and eras, the Yellow Jackets have the chance over the next few weeks to separate themselves from the pack and go down as one of the best teams ever in Greenville history.

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