A Leelanau Debut: Suttons Bay, Northport Combine Forces on the Hardwood

NORTHPORT – As the girls basketball season tips off this week on the Leelanau Peninsula, fans will have a new team to cheer for.

Following in the footsteps of the North Bay boys and girls soccer co-ops, Northport and Suttons Bay have joined forces on the hardwood this winter to form the North Bay girls basketball team.

With only 18 players combined among three levels of competition a year ago, the move to a co-op was a necessary one.

“Suttons Bay and Northport have many other co-ops together, and as we looked at what was best at for our long term programming and sustainability, we came together and said, ‘Is it time for girls basketball to be part of our other co-ops that we have,’” Northport athletic director Joshua Vander Meulen said.

After struggling to stay competitive in the Cherryland Conference in past years, Northport captured its first league championship since 1976 a year ago, finishing with a 14-5 overall record. Suttons Bay went 5-16 last season and finished third from the bottom in the Northwest Conference standings.

“Mixing two schools adds more competition to like, who’s going to want to be on varsity, who wants to get that starting position,” Northport senior Sarah Reynolds said. “Usually at our school, like you didn’t really have tryouts. If you wanted to play, you were playing because we needed numbers but now that we have competition, you either put in the work, or you’re not playing.”

With 13 players on the varsity roster this winter – in addition to a JV team – the move is already paying for first-year coach Jim Champion’s program.

“I feel like we’re going to have a better team, just because there’s stuff from Northport that we didn’t have last year and there’s things from Suttons Bay that Northport didn’t have last year,” Suttons Bay senior Keely Fischer said. “I feel like we’re going to work better together.”

“So far, our girls are excited. Seems like the team has really come together quicker than I would anticipate two groups of girls,” added Vander Meulen. “I think that might have happened because a lot of these girls played girls soccer together.”

The decision to combine the two teams will hopefully have a lasting effect.

“My excitement is simply, I’m happy the girls are able to have strong numbers and strong teams at all levels and I think it will be fun to see how that translates to their performance on the court,” Vander Meulen said. “Anything that is a better opportunity or can be something that is strong for our student athletes excites me.”

Wednesday’s season opener against Bear Lake tips off at 7:30 p.m. at Northport.

Categories: Girls Basketball