EVART — Jarek VanOrder played varsity basketball at Evart four seasons and saw marked improvement in the program over the years.

As a freshman, VanOrder saw the team struggle through an 0-21 season. It improved to 4-17 as a sophomore. In his senior season, the Wildcats improved to 8-14.

“We had a great game against Morley Stanwood to get the win,” VanOrder said.

The season ended Friday at Hesperia in the Class C district finals with a 53-25 loss to Shelby. The Wildcats trailed 29-9 at halftime.

DJ Beckman and Lucas Landis netted 16 points apiece for Shelby.

Preston Boyd scored seven points for Evart while VanOrder added six.

“We really tried to slow it down,” said Evart coach Kris Morgan. “I think we held them to their lowest point total of the year. What hurt us was right before halftime, they went up from being 10 on us to being 20 points ahead on us. They were big but they could also hit those mid-range jumpers.”

On Wednesday, the Wildcats stunned Morley Stanwood 52-49 in overtime in a district semifinal game. Boyd was hot with 25 points while Jessie Lang added nine. Evart, with a 29-25 rebounding edge, had a 14-8 lead after the first quarter and was up 21-15 at halftime and 31-24 after the third quarter. Morley Stanwood had an 18-11 edge in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 42-42. Evart outscored the Mohawks 10-7 in the overtime.

“Preston Boyd had a great game for us,” VanOrder said. “It really helped us. Against Shelby, we got a little outmanned,”

Morgan indicated that things started clicking toward the end of the season for the Wildcats. VanOrder agreed

“It was their first district win,” Morgan said. “They hadn’t won a district game in their entire sports career.”

At 8-14, “you always want to do a little better,” VanOrder said. “That’s the way it goes.” The win over Morley Stanwood “was definitely the highlight of the season for us,’” VanOrder said. “They were a 15-win team. We went out and proved that our conference was very competitive.”

Boyd, Lang and VanOrder are among the key seniors who graduate.

It may not not have been his best season performance wise but it was from a leadership standpoint, VanOrder said.

VanOrder will be playing baseball this spring for Evart.

“Our pitching will be a key,” he said. “We lost both our pitchers from last year.”

Morgan took over the varsity basketball program about four weeks prior to the start of the season when Matt Alexander resigned to take a teaching job at Clare, He’s looking forward to having full offseason to work with the 2012-13 team.