FRUITPORT – The Fruitport boys basketball squad is playing its best at tournament time, which is always the goal for every team, but for the Trojans it means a bit more.

Regardless of how they finish out, the Trojans have clearly taken a big step forward after a very difficult regular season, which bodes well for next year when most of the key players will return.

Fruitport followed up on Monday’s thrilling overtime victory over Orchard View with an equally exciting 53-49 win over Oakridge on Wednesday in a Division 2 district semifinal game at Orchard View High School.

Fruitport, now 7-17 on the season, advances to Friday’s district championship game against archrival Spring Lake, which stunned previously unbeaten Whitehall in overtime in Wednesday’s other semifinal matchup.

Oakridge finished the season with a 15-8 record.

Fruitport’s DayDay Williams drives to the hoop. Photo/Jeremy Clark

“I think we catch a little bit of a dark horse type of thing with our record and how we played throughout the season,” said Fruitport head coach Steve Erny. “We struggled. But in both of these games this week, we showed we have it in us. These guys really believed they could make a run in the tournament, and they did a good job again tonight.

“How you end your season is the last taste you have in your mouth headed into the next season. I am excited about the fact that, no matter what happens going forward, we are turning things around.”

Like Monday, the Trojans started out strong, lost the lead in the second half, then regrouped and played great down the stretch to clinch another impressive victory.

Oakridge grabbed a one-point lead within the first minute of the fourth quarter, and kept pushing Fruitport the rest of the way, but the Trojans answered with a bunch of really big plays when they mattered most.

Sophomore DayDay Williams hit a layup and free throw with 6:14 left, giving Fruitport a 37-35 lead.

Fruitport’s Grade Anspach takes a jump shot. Photo/Jeremy Clark

Junior center Ryan Bosch grabbed a rebound and hit a putback with 4:47 left to play and was fouled. He nailed the free throw to put the Trojans up 40-35.

His three-point play came after the Trojans had missed three straight shots, but grabbed an offensive rebound each time to give themselves another chance.

Williams had another layup with 3:14 left, putting Fruitport up 42-39. He added a three-pointer with 2:38 left to make it 45-41, then had a steal and layup with 1:50 left to make the score 47-43.

Senior Kyle Burke nailed a triple with 1:06 left to make the score 50-45, then Williams added one free throw and Grade Anspach downed two more with 10 seconds left, sewing up the victory.

Williams lets a shot fly from 3-point range. Photo/Jeremy Clark

Williams scored 11 of his team-high 13 points in the fourth quarter.

“They stayed with it and their composure was really good,” Coach Erny said about his players. “These guys are starting to feel the game and play the game. It’s so much fun. They are having a blast. This is what high school sports are all about.”

Bosch said the entire week has been a breath of fresh air after the Trojans struggled badly all season in the talent-loaded O-K Blue conference.

“It’s amazing – you feel like anything can happen,” he said. “I feel like the O-K Blue has some of the best basketball, and some of these teams (in districts) think we can’t compete with them, but we’ve been bringing it all every game.”

The Trojans led for most of the game, but the score stayed close from start to finish.

Bosch scored eight points in the first quarter, helping Fruitport build a promising 17-10 lead at the first buzzer.

Fruitport’s Kyle Burke (5) tries to work around an Oakridge defender. Photo/Jeremy Clark

Oakridge bounced back in the second quarter with an 11-7 edge, leaving the Trojans with a slight 24-21 halftime lead.

The third quarter was pretty even, with the Trojans outscoring the Eagles 10-8 and taking a 34-29 lead into the fourth.

Peyton Ruel hit a three-pointer for Oakridge with 7:08 left, giving Oakridge a 35-34 lead – which also turned out to be its final lead.

Fruitport responded with a 6-0 run with the two three-point plays by Willams and Bosch to take the lead for good. The Trojans outscored the Eagles 19-14 over the final 6:14 of the game.

Bosch and Burke each finished with 12 points.

Fruitport’s Daiton Campbell lets a shot fly. Photo/Jeremy Clark

Coach Erny understands that his team will be an underdog against Spring Lake (12-12), which beat the Trojans in last year’s district title game and twice again this season.

But regardless of how everthing goes, Erny said his team is excited to reach the finals… and who knows?

“There is zero pressure on us,” the coach said. “We’re going to look to do the best we can possibly do, put all of our chips on the table, play loose and see what happens.”eddie