Gielczyk: Kingsley Rolling as Regular Season Enters Final Month

Brian Shaw graduated from Kingsley in 1987, and returned to his alma mater for Tuesday night’s girls basketball game between Petoskey and Kingsley.

While he received the typical welcome, handshakes and slaps on the back while recalling the old days, once the game started it wasn’t so friendly.

Nostalgia went out the window after the opening tip as Shaw, now coach of the Northmen, found himself feeling a bit helpless as he watched from the bench during the Stags’ 71-21 blowout victory in the non-conference contest.

Few teams have stayed with the Stags for long this season.

Petoskey were out of it early in this one, falling into a 17-0 hole off the bat and trailing by 20 points, 26-6 after the first eight minutes. The Northmen did not mount a serious threat to the Kingsley lead after that.

It was a rude homecoming for Shaw, and a welcome to the club for his Petoskey team.

For the Stags it was business as usual. Ranked second in the Associated Press Class B poll this week, Kingsley has had only one true test this season, and even then they finished with a 16-point win, 61-45 over Glen Lake on Jan. 19 in their closest margin of victory this season in rolling to a 14-0 record overall, 10-0 in the Northwest Conference.

Glen Lake is just a step behind the Stags in the Northwest Conference with an 8-1 record. But, given the way Kingsley has run away with every game this season it looks like the Stags are 20 games ahead in the standings.

That’s not how Matt Schelich looks at it, of course. He knows that the Stags are not unbeatable, no matter what the scores this season might seem to indicate. Any night, the unthinkable could happen and the undefeated season be spoiled.

But, given the way the Stags are playing, it would take a Herculean effort to knock them from the ranks of the unbeaten right now.

Kingsley’s balanced offense is one reason the Stags are so difficult to beat. The Stags don’t have a player close to averaging 20 points a game, but all five starters score in double figures.

Focusing on stopping one or two leaves the others open, and that has been a losing proposition.

Defense, though, has been even more of a factor behind the Stags’ success. Pressing the Northmen from the start and never letting up on the heat, Kingsley finished with 17 steals and forced even more turnovers.

Maintaining that defensive intensity for the full four quarters has not been a problem for the talent rich Stags. After the first wave softens teams up, the second doesn’t give them time to relax and catch their breath.

Jacie King got the Stags off to a flying start, hitting on three 3-point shots and finishing with 11 first quarter points. Capitalizing on the Stags’ defensive pressure, including trapping the ball and forcing turnovers, that created opportunities in transition, Brittany Bowman scored on several layups and was a hot 8-of-11 shooting for a game-high 19 points.

But the Stags’ offensive balance isn’t confined to merely scoring. Five different players had more than one assist, and only Kelsie Bies had more than one steal. It’s the kind of team play that makes Kingsley so dominating.

Schelich hasn’t had any worries about the Stags becoming complacent during their undefeated streak.

They have their eyes firmly on the prize, and aren’t looking ahead to the post-season where they plan to make a long run.

It’s one game at a time for Kingsley. It’s been working nicely so far.

Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at ggielczyk@jackpine.net for story ideas.