Coach’s son sparks Hudsonville to rout of Holland in Class A district title showdown
Zeeland – Hudsonville coach Eric Elliott handed off the district championship trophy to senior forward Brent Hibbitts then stepped back and watched his players celebrate the school’s fifth consecutive Class A district title.
He smiled proudly at all of them, but perhaps most of all at his son.
It was junior guard Bryce Elliott who scored 15 points and, defensively, smothered Holland sophomore Demetrius Lake and lead the Eagles to a 55-35 victory at Zeeland East on Friday.
“He gave us a spark early on when we couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean,” Eric Elliott said. “He came in and took the lid off for us. He did a heck of a job defensively on Lake as well. I’ve been in the game a long time and, obviously, he’s my boy, but when he’s between the lines, he’s just my player.
“He had his best game of the year. As far as what he gave us from a lift standpoint, it was huge.”
Bryce Elliott led the Eagles (15-7) with nine first-half points off the bench.
It was tied 4-4 at the end of the first quarter in what started out as a defensively struggle, but he provided some much-needed scoring with a pair of field goals to begin the second.
Defensively, Elliott was at his best as he made sure Lake, who averaged 26 points per game during the regular season, didn’t steal the show.
“I love playing for my dad. There’s nothing like it,” Bryce Elliott said. “I’ve been fortunate to have him as my coach.”
Lake, who struggled with his shooting touch in the district semifinals and final because of special attention from opposing defenses, reacted in frustration after picking up his fifth foul with 5:15 left in regulation.
He appeared to block a Hibbitts layup while rushing back against a two-on-one fast break but was called for a foul. Lake spiked the ball on the court, prompting a technical foul. He finished with 11 points to lead the Dutch (17-6).
“He was frustrated. Offensively, he never really shot the ball well the last two games,” Holland coach Paul Chapman said. “He’s been great all year. The kid is one of the best sophomores around. He’s been our leading scorer all year, so we’re going to go with him, obviously. He just couldn’t get into a shooting rhythm.
“He had a great year. He’s going to be up for all kinds of postseason honors. I know (the technical) was just a culmination of frustration from the game tonight. We had a lot of good times this year.”
Hibbitts, who scored his 1,000th career point in Wednesday’s upset of Wyoming in the district semifinals, had 13 points. He said the Eagles emphasized stopping Lake from taking control of the title game.
“He’s a great player. We know his strengths and we knew his weaknesses, too. So, we tried to force him into that,” Hibbitts said. “He still played well, but we held him to a reasonable amount. That was big for us.”
Even bigger was Hudsonville’s unexpected district championship.
The Eagles suffered a pair of regular-season losses to OK Red Division champion East Kentwood, including a heartbreaker at the buzzer at home, but they’ve banded together to create a little March magic of their own.
It didn’t hurt getting senior forward Mason Opple, who missed 12 games with a broken left hand, back in the lineup for the start of district play. He fills an important role in the post. He had nine points against Holland.
Levi Lubbers and Jared Blum, both junior guards, contributed 10 and seven points, respectively.
“It’s very satisfying,” Hibbitts said of claiming the district title after not meeting preseason expectations. “We get to keep playing. It’s my senior year and I don’t know how many games I got left. We established a lot of goals at the beginning of the year, and we really didn’t meet much of them. This was a big one for us.”
And biggest of all for the player with the same last name as his coach.
“It’s huge. At the beginning of the season, we were low, super low,” Bryce Elliott said. “When we played Wyoming the first time, we didn’t know if there was a light at the end of the tunnel. But we kept working.”
“For Bryce to come in right away and put points up for us was huge. We couldn’t make a bucket, so he came in and did that and did a great job on defense against Lake,” he said. “He played huge for us.”