After a back-and-forth regulation, late game heroics by the Falcons forced overtime, where the Lakers closed the deal, 57-53.
The 32 scheduled minutes were a roller coaster ride for both teams. The game opened with an alternative starting-lineup for Spring Lake, who left Linsey Paggeot at home due to illness. Emily Batts filled in wonderfully.
“We were playing down a little bit. Zenas was sick, Spring Lake head coach Cavin Mohrhardt said. “Linsey didn’t make the trip because she is so sick. We had to do things that we hadn’t really prepared for over the course of the season, but it was a great game for us to experience.
“Emily Batts was filling in for Linsey on the defensive end and really did a nice job of slowing down their top scorers.”
The mixed lineup stunted the Lakers at first in the opening quarter, they were outrebounded and outshot by West Catholic, who hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open the contest. At first break Spring Lake trailed, 13-12.
The second quarter put the Lakers’ lack of outside shooting on display. Lockdown zone coverage of the paint forced Spring Lake to the perimeter, where they would go one-for-eight to start the second quarter, allowing the Falcon lead to balloon to eight.
A late bucket for Reiko Johnson and two made free throws cut the Falcon lead to a merciful seven point heading to intermission.
As it was the entire game, Spring Lake’s struggles gave way to success and the pendulum swung back in the third quarter.
West Catholic shot an abysmal 1-15 over the third period, allowing the Lakers to slip back into control. They took their first lead of the night at 28-27, on a Johnson steal and assist to Madelyn Nelson.
The lead change sparked the Laker offense, with Madeline Zenas and Emily Batts picking up their first baskets shortly there after.
The 18-4 run over the third quarter put the Lakers up three heading for a wild conclusion.
In the fourth, Spring Lake managed to take just three shots, but made all of them. The accuracy combined with quality free throw shooting kept the Lakers ahead until the drama picked up with 36 seconds remaining.
A split trip to the free throw line for West Catholic put them down by one, forcing a Laker timeout. The Falcons fouled immediately following the stop, sending Johnson to the line. She hit both, putting her at 12-for-13 for the evening from the charity stripe.
On the ensuing possession with 17 seconds remaining, Jenna Doyle of West Catholic put the Falcons on her back, driving the lane for a huge bucket and foul. She completed the three-point play, sending the crazy train rolling on into overtime.
The extra period saw a rough start for the Lakers, who missed their first two shot attempts. Two perfect and one split trip to the free throw line, along with a Johnson drive, put the Lakers up a comfortable six with under one minute to play.
The Falcons had not yet scored in overtime. That changed in the final minute.
Two 3-pointers in the final 40 seconds for West Catholic gave the Lakers a good scare, but Johnson’s stellar free throw shooting continued and held off the improbable comeback.
Johnson finished 17-for-19 from the line, giving the Lakers their eventual four-point victory.
Her 17 free points combined with a strong night from the floor allowed Johnson to lead all scorers with 30 total points. Following her from the Lakers was Jenna Core with eight, Zenas and Batts with six each, Madelyn Nelson with five and Jorden Peppin with two.
The win closes out the Lakers’ regular season at 10-2 in the O-K Blue, and 14-6 overall. The season-long effort earned Spring Lake runner-up honors in their first season competing in the O-K Blue.
“We lost to GRCC twice, and that’s our only losses in the conference,” Mohrhardt said. “It was a big game to get ready for districts.”
The Lakers will now turn their attention to the district tournament, which kicks off against Whitehall on Monday.
Freshmen: Spring Lake defeated GR West Catholic, 39-36. Madalyn Lisman scored 19 points, making 7-of-12 from the free throw line, and grabbed five rebounds. Mia McDermott added eight points and Julia Bajt was 5-of-6 for free throws to finish with five points.