Byron Center turns back G.R. Christian, 48-44, on late free throws and key rebound by Savanna Elzinga
By Dean Holzwarth
Caledonia – Byron Center’s Savanna Elzinga wasn’t ready for her high school career to end just yet.
The 5-foot-8 senior guard scored five points in the final 20 seconds to lift her team to a thrilling 48-44 win over Grand Rapids Christian on Wednesday in a Class A district semifinal at Caledonia High School.
“It was scary,” Elzinga said. “I thought we were going to be done, but I just knew we had to push for it. I didn’t play well in the first half so I knew I had to get after it when it came down to the wire.”
The Bulldogs trailed 45-44 when Elzinga stole the ball and converted the go-ahead lay-up, her first field goal of the night, to put Byron Center up by one with 18 seconds left.
After the Eagles were whistled for an offensive foul, Elzinga was fouled and split a pair of free throws.
Elzinga missed the second one, but stepped in front of a pass and tossed in a shot in at the buzzer to seal the victory.
Byron Center (17-5) will play Caledonia (15-6) for the title at Caledonia on Friday at 7 p.m.
Caledonia defeated Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills 62-44.
Elzinga finished with seven points, all in the final four minutes of the game after coping with foul trouble.
“She wanted it,” Byron Center coach Jen Slot said. “She was here last year when we played Christian in the district finals and lost in the end. In the back of her mind she knew she had to step up as a senior. Kudos to her because she was in foul trouble for most of the second half.”
Christian (17-5) maintained a slim lead throughout the fourth quarter and led 44-40 with 1:04 remaining.
However, Byron Center freshmen Ellie Dykstra made a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left that made it 44-43 before Elzinga’s heroics.
“We didn’t play great at the beginning, but we hung in there,” Slot said. “We didn’t get down when Christian made a run and I’m so proud of these girls. They knew it was going to be a dogfight until the end and they stayed with it.”
Both teams struggled from the field, shooting less than 35 percent, but Byron Center took control from the free throw line and was 18-of-30.
A scary moment occurred midway through the third quarter when Eagles junior center Maddie Schroder fell and hit her head on the floor while scrambling for a rebound.
The game was delayed 35 minutes while she was attended to for a head or neck injury. She had feeling in her fingers and toes but was taken off the floor on a stretcher and transported to hospital.
“Obviously, that was difficult,” Eagles coach Tom Buteyn said. “The girls were very upset when they took her of in an ambulance, but the girls responded the way this team has always responded.
“We played harder after that, but we just didn’t play as well as we needed to. We missed quite a few lay-ups and didn’t get big rebounds when we needed to. Give credit to Byron Center, we ramped up our intensity and they handled it.”
Junior Tena Barr led Buron Center with 18 points, while junior Ashley Cline added 12. Jocelyn Taylor and Kortney Deurloo each scored 11 to pace the Eagles.