If would seem like there should be a certain amount of pressure that comes with being the cover subject on a state tournament program.
But if that’s the case, Northwest Christian’s Chase Ramey certainly did a splendid job of hiding it while leading the No. 1 and unbeaten Crusaders to an unprecedented fourth consecutive title in the State 2B boys basketball championship.
Ramey, who was featured on the cover of this year’s tournament program, capped an outstanding four-day run at the Arena on Saturday night by throwing in a game-high 22 points as Northwest Christian (29-0) capped a perfect season by thumping Bi-County League rival Davenport 54-39 in the championship final.
They 5-foot-10 senior guard and tournament MVP made 8 of 19 field goals and 5 of 7 free throws in leading the Crusaders to their 57th straight win and first unbeaten season in their remarkable four-year run that eclipsed the three consecutive titles Brewster won in the mid-1970s.
“Chase told the players in the locker room at halftime that there was no way we were going to lose this, and he didn’t let it happen,” NWC coach Ray Rick said. “He brings a kind of self-confidence and passion that’s hard to put a price tag on.”
Ramey confessed to feeling “a lot of overwhelming emotion” after helping the Crusaders to their fifth win this season over the Gorillas (20-8).
Davenport got 14 points each from senior forward Taylor Morgan and Morgan Scharff, their 6-foot-9 junior center, who played a key role in keeping his team close for the better part of three quarters.
“I love these guys, each and every one of them, like brothers,” Ramey said, nodding toward his teammates, who were still in the midst of their postgame celebration. “It’s been an amazing ride with them, and it feels great.”
Ricks said he probably won’t fully appreciate his team’s accomplishment until he looks back on it in 10 or 15 years. But in the wake of the lopsided win, he took time to praise the defensive effort his team made in holding Davenport to just 36.4 percent (16 of 44) shooting, while forcing 13 turnovers.
“Defense has been a staple for us all year, and I thought we did a great job with that again tonight,” Ricks said. “I thought the defensive adjustment we made in the second half when we put Daniel Kuiper on Morgan Scharff was crucial.
“Scharff had kind of taken the game over at that point, but Daniel came in and did a nice job of defending him. He’s not nearly as tall, but he’s a better athlete.”
In their past four years of dominance at the 2B level, Northwest Christian has amassed a 114-5 overall record and won 17 consecutive state tournament games.
“They’re just a great ball club, what else can you say?” Davenport coach Tim Zeiler said. “Ray does a great job coaching those kids – they’ve got a lot of seniors and they just wouldn’t buckle under the pressure we put on them tonight.”
Zeiler, whose team lost its first four games to the Crusaders by an average of 15 points, said he won’t be disappointed to see Ricks’ group of seniors graduate this spring – especially Ramey.
“We’ve had trouble with him all along – his tenacity, his quickness and that fall-away jumper of his. He’s just a really good player,” Zeiler added, before saying how proud he was on his players, who got the school to the tournament for the first time since 1985 and made it all the way to the title game.
Davenport clawed back from a 12-point deficit early in the second quarter and pulled to within 24-21 at halftime. The Gorillas pulled even at 28 a little more than 2 minutes into the third period, but fell back near the end of the quarter when NWC reeled off eight unanswered points.
After Matt Zandbergen, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, scored the first bucket of the final period to put the Crusaders up 41-31, Davenport never threatened again.
After falling behind 21-9, the Gorillas came back from what could have been an early knockout punch by outscoring Northwest Christian 12-3 over the last 7 minutes of the second period and slicing the Crusaders’ lead to just three points.