HART — After two straight years of coming up short in tough battles against Montague, the Hart Pirates finally got one Tuesday night, hanging on for a 37-36 victory.
Hart (6-1, 5-0 West Michigan Conference) missed three consecutive one-and-one free throw attempts at the end of the game, but after each of the first two, freshman Addi Hovey made great defensive plays to bail the Pirates out. First she forced a jump ball, and the second time she grabbed a steal. (The third miss happened with 1.7 seconds on the clock, and Montague couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer.)
Hovey also hit a big three-pointer during a third-quarter run that pushed the Pirates’ lead to double digits — her first career trey.
“I’ve been practicing shooting every day after practice with my dad,” Hovey said. “I’ve been wanting to shoot them, but I just haven’t gotten my confidence yet. Tonight, I was just wide open so I decided to take it and it went in.”
Coach Travis Rosema said before Hovey made her pivotal steal that he told her not to be too aggressive in case she committed a foul. The freshman couldn’t help herself and came up with the ball anyway, allowing the Pirates to call timeout. Hovey ended the game with nine points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.
“She’s smart,” Rosema said. “She’s played a lot of basketball. She’s going to get after it.”
The Pirates led throughout the game but couldn’t put Montague away. Mariana VanAgtmael drilled a trio of three-pointers, two coming during big scoring runs and the other coming out of a timeout to extend Hart’s lead to 35-28 in the fourth quarter.
Hart’s defense was a huge factor in the win: On top of Hovey’s three steals, Aspen Boutell had six thefts and VanAgtmael had five. The Pirates consistently made Montague go faster than it wanted to, and forced a slew of turnovers in the first three quarters.
“Someone told me, ‘You guys are hectic,’” Rosema said. “We’re going to be hectic, and we just need to capitalize on steals. In the first quarter, I thought we left 15 points out there on missed layups. That’s the way we play: Get steals, run the court.”
The win gave Hart command of the WMC, the trophy that’s eluded it the past two years. Rosema said the Pirates’ goals are more far-reaching than the league, but said it was “great for us” to be in the driver’s seat.
It had to feel great for the players, too. Although it was Hovey’s first Hart/Montague showdown, she’s been at the games in past years where her teammates fought hard and couldn’t get over the hump. Tuesday, she helped the Pirates accomplish that goal.
“I’ve watched over the years, like the triple overtime (game) and all those,” Hovey said, referring to the 2020 classic that decided the WMC. “So it was just really fun to get this one tonight.”
VanAgtmael led the team with 11 points, and Boutell added seven along with her six steals.
MONTAGUE (36) Dyer 1 4-5 7, Osborne 2 0-0 5, Schwarz 0 2-2 2, Trevino 1 0-0 2, Smith 1 2-2 5, M. Meacham 3 1-2 7, C. Meacham 3 1-4 8. Totals 11 10-15 36.
HART (37) Hicks 2 2-2 6, Owens 0 0-2 0, Aerts 1 0-2 2, Marvin 1 0-3 2, Hovey 3 2-2 9, VanAgtmael 3 2-6 11, Boutell 3 0-0 7. Totals 13 6-17 37.
Montague....4 12 8 12 — 36
Hart.............8 10 12 7 — 37
Three-point goals — Montague 4 (Dyer, Osborne, Smith, C. Meacham), Hart 5 (Hovey, VanAgtmael 3, Boutell). Total fouls — Montague 17, Hart 16. Fouled out — Schwarz. JV score — Montague 25, Hart 22.