FRUITPORT – Yes, the Fruitport girls basketball team won its district tournament opener on Monday night, earned a berth in the semifinals and kept its season alive.

But the big thing was that the Trojans won, after 16 straight losses dating back to Dec. 29, when they beat North Muskegon.

That alone was cause for the Fruitport players to be very happy when they left the court.

The Trojans overcame a shaky first half, pulled away in the second and defeated Orchard View 39-23 in the first round of the Division 2 district tournament on their home court.

Fruitport’s Ashton Olson (10). Photo/Jeremy Clark

Fruitport, now 6-17 on the season, will play Montague on Wednesday night in the semifinals, with the winner advancing to Friday’s championship game.

“We got a win,” said a very happy Fruitport Coach Brian Packard. “It was nice to get it in districts. I don’t know the last time we won a district game. I know it wasn’t last year or the year before, and I don’t think the year before that. This was huge for our confidence.

“The girls have remained so positive all season long and they deserved this tonight.”

In a way the victory was not a surprise, because the Trojans had beaten Orchard View early in the season and knew they matched up well with the Cardinals.

And they have real hope for some success this week in districts, playing against teams they know they can compete with, after struggling through their tough O-K Blue conference schedule.

Fruitport’s Ava Powell (30). Photo/Jeremy Clark

But winning requires confidence, and Fruitport did not have an opportunity to build much of that over the past two months.

It wasn’t really on display during the first half on Monday, when the Trojans missed a lot of shots and went to halftime with a thin six-point lead.

But some swag was evident in the second half, when Fruitport outscored OV 24-14 and made it an easy win.

“I think we controlled the game a lot better in the second half,” Packard said. “They (Orchard View) are not a real deep team and I think they got kind of worn out. Credit to them, they played hard the whole way. It was just nice to be on the winning side for once in what seems like six months.”

The Trojans got off to a great start in the first quarter when junior Kenzie Pate hit two straight triples in the first minute and a half to put Fruitport up 6-0.

Fruitport’s Izzy Hanson-Wilbur (2). Photo/Jeremy Clark

But then the scoring slowed way down for both teams.

Fruitport led 10-7 at the first buzzer, Orchard View made a basket about 1:20 in the second quarter to make the score 10-9, then neither team managed a point until the final seconds of the first half.

After a ton of missed shots by both teams, Fruitport’s Ashton Olson hit a layup with 19 seconds left, then Jorja Blackmer had a layup at the buzzer, was fouled and made the free throw, giving the Trojans a 15-9 lead at halftime.

The Trojans started working the ball inside more in the second half, outscored the Cardinals 12-7 in the third quarter and led 27-16 heading into the fourth. Izzy Hanson-Wilbur led Fruitport with six points in the quarter Pate hit a triple.

Fruitport’s Jorja Blackmer (21). Photo/Jeremy Clark

Fruitport kept it going in the fourth quarter with another 12-7 advantage to seal up the win. Hanson-Wilbur scored another six points in the final eight minutes and finished with a team high of 12. Blackmer added four points in the fourth.

Pate totaled nine points, Blackmer finished with seven and Olson had six.

“The girls who were sitting on the bench and didn’t get in the game were just as excited as the girls on the court,” Packard said. “We’ve been talking for weeks about playing for each other, and tonight was the first night I think I really started to see that click.

“When you start sharing the ball and you don’t care who scores, things look a little brighter.”eddie