BYRON CENTER – The Hudsonville girls basketball team has experienced its share of big games.
That happens when you win a state championship.
On Tuesday that experience definitely came in handy, because the Eagles built a big lead through three quarters, then had to withstand a Byron Center comeback to claim a 62-55 victory in a Division 1 regional semifinal game on the Bulldogs’ home court.
Hudsonville, which is trying to defend its 2021 Division 1 state title, now moves on to play Rockford on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the regional finals.
“We played a really tough non-conference schedule,” said Hudsonville senior Jaci Tubergen, when asked about her squad being prepared for battle in tight games. “I think that really helped us down the stretch. We were able to keep our composure and play our game.”
The game got as close as three points with 30 seconds left before Tubergen came through at the free throw line to help the Eagles pull away.
“When you have seniors in your locker room like we do who’ve played in these types of games, it always helps, said Hudsonville Coach Casey Glass, whose team is now 21-2. “They know what it’s all about, and in close games like this, you have to have that.”
Another thing that allows the Eagles to pick up big wins is their scoring depth.
They had three players score in double figures and five with seven points or more.
Tubergen led Hudsonville with 19 points, Maddie Petroelje scored 12 and Eva Joldersma added 11 points.
“It’s something we’ve prided ourselves on all year,” said Glass about the scoring depth. “We have different people who can get points and score.”
Tubergen scored five points in the first quarter, helping Hudsonville to a 19-15 lead at the first buzzer.
Byron Center held the Eagles to just six points in the second quarter, but Hudsonville still led 25-22 at halftime.
The Hudsonville offense caught fire in the third quarter, scoring 24 points, including nine from Petroelje, who hit three triples.
The Eagles held a seemingly safe 49-33 lead headed into the fourth quarter, but Byron Center was not quite finished.
The Bulldogs cut the lead to seven points on multiple occasions, then got within five points with 50 seconds remaining and three points with 30 seconds left.
But Tubergen put the game away at the free-throw line, going 4-for-4 down the stretch and giving Hudsonville a berth in the regional finals for the eighth straight year.
“It’s an exciting feeling,” Tubergen said. “We’ve been here before, but we’re still taking it one game at a time. I’m thankful for this opportunity that we get to compete for another regional title.”