The no. Grand Valley State University’s 12th-ranked women’s basketball guarding duo, Emily Spitzley and No. 2 Ellie Droste, have always been an important part of each other’s lives on and off the basketball court.
“Our parents have been friends since they were in high school,” Spitzley said. “So our families are like family friends. We’ve been on family vacations together our whole lives.
On the pitch, the duo enjoyed great success in their high school careers as teammates at Pewamo-Westphalia. In their first season together, Spitzley’s junior year and Droste’s freshman year, the two helped lead PW to the MSHAA state championship game. However, they fell short, losing to Detroit Edison Public School Academy 44-42.
Although making the state championship game was a great experience, Spitzley and Droste said their favorite moment playing together was actually the opener of their tournament, which was a game against their school rivals, Bath.
“They (Bath) were in our conference, so we played them twice a year,” Droste said. “We lost to them the first time, then the second time it happened at the very end and we lost the match. So going into the tournament we knew they were a very good team. They beat us twice, we just really wanted to win and we ended up winning that game.
The following season, Spitzley’s final year, Pewamo-Westphalia again found themselves facing Detroit Edison in the playoffs, this time in the state semifinals. The result was the same, as Pewamo-Westphalia failed and the chance for the Spitzley-Droste duo to win a state championship together came to an end.
“We wanted to be a really good high school team and that was really the first thing we thought of,” Spitzley said. “We wanted to win a state championship and we had some really good races while I was there.”
Spitzley then graduated from Pewamo-Westphalia and made the decision to play at the top level for the Lakers, a choice she said was an easy one.
“I always wanted to go here (GVSU),” Spitzley said. “That’s where we went to all of our team camps together – me and Ellie – in the dorms and stuff, and we had been around campus, so there was nowhere else I really wanted to go.”
With Spitzley at GVSU, it left Droste and Spitzley’s younger sister, Hannah Spitzley, who now plays DI basketball at Western Michigan University, with another shot at winning a state championship. The third time was Droste’s charm, as she helped lead Pewamo-Westphalia to a state championship in her freshman year.
Droste didn’t have a chance to attempt a repeat, as COVID-19 cut short his senior season at Pewamo-Westphalia and left him with a decision; whether or not she wants to play basketball at the next level.
“A big deciding factor (to come to GVSU) was for one, having Emily, because it’s just comforting to have someone here that you know,” Droste said. “It’s also not too far (from my home) and I really like Grand Valley and know the area well.”
Now, with Spitzley and Droste reunited at GVSU, they’ve picked up where they left off together in Pewamo-Westphalia. Spitzley currently leads the team with nearly 14 points per game, while Droste is third on that list with 11.9 points per game. Production also led to the team’s success, leading the Lakers to a 14-1 record and first place in the GLIAC with a 7-1 conference record.
“Our whole team is working very hard this year and I feel like last year it was a very young group,” Droste said.
Their reunion also gives the duo two more chances at redemption to potentially win a championship together. Spitzley takes advantage of the additional year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to COVID-19 and returns next season for its fifth year.
“I love basketball, I love playing, I love being in the gym,” Spizley said. “I wouldn’t give up another year of that, really, for anything.”
The Lakers currently control their own destiny in the conference after a big win on Jan. 20 at second-place GLIAC Michigan Technological University. Spitzley hit a buzzer-beating three-point shot to send it to OT where the Lakers would win the game 74-70. Droste finished with a career-high 31 points and the Pewamo-Westphalia alumni combined for 51 points in the win. Winning would give them a regular-season GLIAC title and allow them to host the post-season GLIAC tournament.