FREMONT — The Montague Wildcats finally ran into a team that could run with them in Monday’s regional semifinal game against Newaygo, and that put an end to their unbeaten season in a 47-37 loss.
Montague (17-1) rallied from an early 8-2 deficit to take a one-point lead, 18-17, late in the first half. But the Lions responded with an 11-0 run to end the half, and the ‘Cats were down double digits at halftime, 28-18.
Montague didn’t quite let Newaygo pull away in the second half, but was unable to get any closer than six points, as the Lions snuffed out any comeback attempt.
Wildcats’ coach Cody Kater said that Newaygo presented a major challenge, and his team’s not hitting some early shots made the matchup even tougher.
“(Last year), we lost in the district championship,” Kater said. “This year, we were a little bit more composed going into (that game). This (game), I don’t want to say the lights were too bright, but I think it was a tough game for them to go for four quarters. We just didn’t knock down shots, and we weren’t nearly as detailed on defense as we would like.”
Braquelle Osborne led the ‘Cats with 13 points in the game, and Andie Zamojcin added eight, but Montague didn’t get the kind of offensive production it hoped going into the game.
Of course, the loss couldn’t sour the Wildcats’ memories of what was an incredible season, featuring back-to-back West Michigan Conference titles and the first district title for the school in Division 2. And while the team will lose a decorated senior class that includes Osborne, Zamojcin, Ally Hall, Emma Flynn and others, Montague had a strong JV season and should be able to build around freshman Kendall Osborne, who enjoyed an impressive debut campaign.
Kendall doesn’t have to look far to model herself after Wildcats to play as freshmen and go on to have great careers. Her sister Braquelle is one of three graduating Wildcats to fit that description, and those other four starters were all on varsity by the time their sophomore year was over.
“They got to see the hard work pay off, to get themselves here,” Kater said. “Just to walk in the gym and get to see two high-level teams (Grand Rapids Christian and Grand Rapids West Catholic) play one another before us, and be able to play a tough team like Newaygo, it’s great for our program and great for those girls, especially those underclassmen like Kendall Osborne.”
The season ends with great memories and, Kater said, great life lessons to look back on for a group that took the Wildcats to heights rarely seen.
“In the big picture, we feel really accomplished,” Kater said. “We’re at peace with the work that we put in through COVID and this and that. We do feel satisfied.
“It was really nice for them to just kind of, first of all, have a year, then also have something that they can reflect on with the life lessons, as we won games and pursued this growth mentality and not worrying about the result, that it pays off. And that’s the best life lesson going forward.”