Six local players earn league honors

CCA:  Cougars’ senior Joe Balanda (right) guards a Bear Lake player during the 2014-15  season. Balanda was named West Michigan D League first-team all-conference. (Pioneer file photo)

CCA: Cougars’ senior Joe Balanda (right) guards a Bear Lake player during the 2014-15 season. Balanda was named West Michigan D League first-team all-conference. (Pioneer file photo)

Three Panthers, three Cougars receive West Michigan D League accolades

BIG RAPIDS — Baldwin and Crossroads Charter Academy have both landed three players on the West Michigan D League all-conference boys basketball teams which were announced recently.

Baldwin had one first-team selection with Associated Press Class D Player of the Year Brandon Childress.

Also for Baldwin, Da’Ron Copeland was on the second team and Miguel Mahan on the honorable mention list.

Crossroads’ Joe Balanda was placed on the first team, while Josh Henderson and Tate Wickes made the honorable mention list.

For his fourth and final varsity season, Childress averaged 25.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and four steals per game.

“That’s a great honor,” Baldwin coach Kevin Dillard said of the AP award. “It just shows that we produce a lot of good athletes and we work hard and try to become the best we can at Baldwin.”

Childress is a four-year varsity player.

Both Copeland, a junior, and Mahan, a senior, averaged around 13 points per game.

“Da’Ron was a very important piece of what we were trying to accomplish,” Baldwin coach Kevin Dillard said. “He was a great spot-up shooter and had his best game in Onekama with 28 points, which brought us back, and we ended up losing by two. He really started to realize his potential toward the end of the season.”

Baldwin and Onekama were co-champs of the league.

Mahan “was an important part of our team,” Dillard said.

For the Cougars, Balanda, a senior center, averaged 12 points, 10 rebounds, one block and 0.5 assists per game. He also made 53 percent of his shots from the floor.

“Joe was instrumental this season and he did everything for us from rebounding, scoring and drawing many double-teams,” Crossroads coach Jason Kostecki said. “He was consistent in
scoring and rebounding on a nightly basis. He helped turn a team around from winning nine games in two seasons to 11 this year and a trip to a (Class D) district final.”

Wickes, a sophomore guard, averaged 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, four steals and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 45 percent from the floor, 52 percent in 3-pointers and 73 percent in free throws. He was voted team Most Valuable Player.

“Tate is going to be someone to watch out for in the next couple seasons,” Kostecki said. “As a sophomore, he led our team in almost all statistical categories. He was a leader on the floor, and for only being a sophomore, he played more like a senior. He was a huge reason why we won 11 games this season.”

Henderson, a senior forward, averaged 11 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1 assists and 1.4 steals per game, while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 41 percent in 3-pointers.

“Josh was a team leader and great asset to our success from winning nine games in the previous two seasons to 11 this year and an appearance in a district final,” Kostecki said.

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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