Balanced Attack Helps Grand Rapids Northview Defy The Odds

By: Kyle Mills

No one knew what to expect coming into the season for the Northview Wildcats. Opposing coaches, high school basketball fans and media members alike all seemed to overlook the Wildcats. Fast-forward five months and now Northview’s play is doing all of the talking. Sitting at 18-5 having just wrapped up the District 7 Championship, Northview is getting contributions from just about everyone on the team. Multiple players have stuck out this season including but not limited to: Gabe Baric, Malik Clincy, Connor Crawford, Devon Houston, and Ryan Kapustka, with Kapustka being the only senior on that list.

After their loss on February 2nd to Kenowa Hills that dropped Northview to 8-4 overall, things were not looking so hot for the young Wildcats. “We didn’t want to let the streak define our season, and our experienced guys stepped up and kept the team more upbeat,” said coach Trevor Chalmers. Since then, the team has won 10 of its last 11 games. The more impressive feat is winning three games against a host of tough opponents in the districts. First Lowell fell victim to the streaking Wildcats by a score of 71-54. Houston, an all conference selection this season, paced the attack with 16 points while Connor Crawford added 15. Next up was Forest Hills Northern, a team that had tripped up Northview twice by a combined 8 points earlier in the season. The Wildcats came out, sped up the game and played with a sense of urgency to top the Huskies 66-50. Junior forward Gabe Baric had this to say about the win, “It was a great win, we were finally able to get the tempo going in our favor, we always knew we could beat them.” This time it was junior guard Malik Clincy leading the way with 16 points and senior guard Ryan Kapustka dropping 13 for Northview which also had two other players in double figures.

Even after a very impressive season, writers and reporters everywhere predicted that a loaded Forest Hills Central squad would easily beat the Wildcats for the District Championship. Although the Wildcats had won 57-53 in the previous matchup during the season, they were hungry to prove the doubters wrong. “Forest Hills Central is a better team now, and the Rangers will win, they said. Actually, I said that, too. I wish I hadn’t. I didn't take into account that Northview is a better team now as well,” said writer Steve Kaminski. The young but experienced Wildcats held on for the victory by the skin of their teeth in overtime 59-58. This time it was junior guards Houston and Clincy who led the team with 16 and 15 points apiece. “I’ve been letting the game come to me more,” said Clincy about his scoring. Victory was sweet for Northview who lost in the district final last season. Coach Trevor Chalmers added this about the victory, “We have several kids on the team who played in the district final last year, and it was that experience that helped drive us to win it this year.” “Words can’t really explain it,” said big man Gabe Baric, “this was what we have been fighting for all season and we finally got the championship.”

Up next for the Wildcats are the Big Reds of Muskegon who currently sit at 23-0 and rank as the best team in the state. Two superstars: senior Deshaun Thrower (Stony Brook) and junior Deyonta Davis (Michigan State) highlight the Big Reds roster. One player who is going to be looked upon in this game is junior forward Gabe Baric. Baric is the teams leading scorer averaging around 13 points per game and will be faced with trying to score in the paint over Davis, who routinely puts up blocks in the double digits each game. Baric knows a thing or two about putting the ball in the basket though; he had a stretch of 9 straight games where he scored in double figures. “We just have to play our game again by playing great defense and we’ll have a chance,” said the 6 foot 3 inch Baric.

“No one is giving us a chance, but that’s fine,” says junior Malik Clincy, “we know we can compete and play with anyone.” Even with all of the adversity the Wildcats have overcome this season, people are still picking against them. This is just fine for a team that seems to feel comfortable playing with the underdog role according to Gabe Baric. “No one expected us to win districts and we did, and no one expects us to beat Muskegon, so who knows what will happen.”

Come Monday night at 6 o’clock, all eyes are going to be on the Big Reds. College coaches, media members and basketball fans are going to come out to see the best team in the state play. That’s just fine for the Wildcats who have taken a knack for playing together, and turning the attention towards their team all season long.

“I’m pretty excited to show them what Northview is about and the great talent we have,” concluded Baric. If he and his teammates can pull off this upset, just about everyone in the state will know what Northview basketball has been about this season, winning.

You can follow me on Twitter at: @generalmills101

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You can find Northview basketball on Facebook at: Northview Basketball

You can follow some of the Wildcats on Twitter

Malik Clincy: @babyswaggjuice

Ryan Kapustka: @RKapustka

Gabe Baric: @GabeBaric_21

Devon Houston: @DevonBHouston13