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Multiple Teams · Hoop Squad’s Turn-Around No. 3 Sports Story of 2016-17

Olivetathletics.com is counting down the Top 10 Olivet High School sports stories for 2016-17. Here is No. 3…

Following a 1-3 start to the season and then a narrow victory over a below-average East Jackson team on December 19, the Olivet varsity boys’ basketball team seemed headed toward a disappointing 2016-17 campaign.

The highly-touted Eagles were struggling in all areas – offensive execution, defensive discipline, understanding individual roles, and – let’s face it – attitude.

But something clicked over the holiday break for Coach Travis Brown’s squad, which captured the program’s first Class B district title since 2013 when it knocked off Leslie, 59-50, on March 10 at Eaton Rapids High School. That came two weeks after the Eagles clinched a share of their first Greater Lansing Activities Conference title with a dramatic victory over Lansing Christian.

Coach Brown said the district title and opportunity to compete in a regional tournament was a big deal for his program.

“Having a title like that allows the guys in the program to see a little clearer what we do behind the scenes pays off,” he explained. “The district title was a goal for the guys from the outset and it looked bleak after a 1-3 start. However, the holiday break was huge for us as it allowed us to talk out some issues we were having. So, to come from a dark place and get to a title…that’s pretty special.”

The district championship game featured some heroics from Olivet’s leading scorer, Delbert Redfield, who has committed to play basketball at Olivet College next year. Redfield put the contest out of reach when he buried two contested three-pointers late in the fourth quarter. The bombs pushed a four-point lead to 10 with just over two minutes remaining and crushed any hopes Leslie had of coming from behind.

Olivet eventually lost to Portland in a Class B regional semifinal on March 13, squandering a double-digit lead in the second half. That left the locals with a final record of 17-6.

The Eagles’ starting lineup during the 2016-17 season included two seniors (Redfield and Jacob Holzhei) and three juniors (Colin Grady, Ryan Wallenberg and Nick Jungel). With three starters and a talented bench returning, not to mention a 15-win junior varsity team waiting in the wings, Olivet promises to be in the mix again next season.