Montague’s Brandon Moore handles the ball during last week’s district semifinal loss to Shelby at Holton. Moore was one of four local players named to the all-WMC first team.
This season was a successful one for both Montague and Whitehall’s boys basketball teams, and they were rewarded with four combined players on the all-West Michigan Conference first team.
The Wildcats, who won the conference title with a 12-2 league record, had three players make the all-league first team: Chase Casebolt, Brandon Moore and Luke VanBoxel.
Casebolt was the team’s top scorer, averaging 17.7 points per game and 7.7 rebounds a contest. The smooth-shooting senior was a 40 percent shooter from three-point range for the season. His highest-scoring game this year was the team’s final game, an 83-71 district semifinal loss to Shelby. Casebolt’s 29 points and nine rebounds in that game helped keep the Wildcats in the game despite hot shooting from the Tigers. Casebolt also had a 24-point, 10-rebound effort in a win over Mason County Central in January, and his 25 points helped the Wildcats to a February win over Muskegon Catholic on his senior night.
“Chase never quits,” Montague coach David Osbone said after the team’s district loss. “He’s going to make a hell of a college basketball player.”
Moore complemented Casebolt by providing inside muscle, averaging 15.4 points a game and equaling his teammate with 7.7 boards a game. Moore proved to be the conference’s most explosive offensive talent, capable of athletic dunks and high-flying boards, but also proved an asset defensively. His best games came in the regular-season contests with Shelby, posting a 21-point, 18-rebound game in the Wildcats’ victory over the Tigers in January. He also had 26 points in the team’s road loss at Shelby in December. Moore shot 57 percent from the field and over 60 percent from two-point range on the year.
Junior point guard Luke VanBoxel joined his senior teammates on the first team after an impressive season running the offense. VanBoxel, who transferred from Providence Christian, got better as the season went along and he got more acclimated to the offense and his teammates. He reached double figures in scoring in 13 of the Wildcats’ final 14 games and averaged 12.8 points a game and 3.5 assists per contest. He scored as many as 18 points three times — a Dec. 14 win over Hart, a Feb. 8 win at Oakridge and the Wildcats’ upset loss to Whitehall Feb. 22. His highest assist count came in a February win against Ravenna, when he had eight assists. VanBoxel was an efficient scorer, shooting 48 percent from the field.
Whitehall, which posted an 8-6 league record, added Isaac Love to the first team after the senior forward led the Vikings to the district championship game. Love and his team got better and more consistent as the season went along, as the Vikings beat six of their final eight WMC opponents, counting a district semifinal win over Oakridge. Love’s 14.9 points per game led the team and he proved reliable shooting the ball from all distances. He was a 52 percent shooter inside the arc, a 35 percent three-point shooter and was successful on 88 percent of his free-throw attempts. He also had five rebounds a game.
Love’s effect on the Vikings this year could also be seen in the intangibles. After each practice, Love would stay until he had hit an additional 100 jump shots and 50 foul shots, coach Nate Aardema said.
“His fantastic shooting ability comes through commitment and hard work,” Aardema said. “He has put countless hours into the game and those hours have paid off with his first-team selection. His greatest strength, though, is in his commitment to being a team player and his leadership. He is a fantastic student and set a great example of how to conduct himself to kids throughout our program.”
In addition to the first-team selections, Whitehall’s Matt Russell earned honorable-mention accolades. Russell emerged late in the season as a big-time post threat for the Vikings. He averaged 8.5 points per game and 6.4 rebounds a contest, but was at his best late, scoring 11 points per game the second time through the conference schedule. He shot 57 percent from the field for the season.
“Matt Russell is one of the most coachable kids I have ever been around,” Aardema said. “He follows instruction and executes extremely well. His work ethic throughout the entire off-season and into the current season has been a great example to the entire team. Matt has a very bright future as a Viking.”