The Trojans forced the Eagles into low-percentage shots all game, while Fruitport appeared to will themselves to the rim on almost every possession.
However, the Eagles connected on just enough outside shots and the Trojans suffered just enough rim-rattling misses to fall, 43-29.
“I really felt coming into this game that we would be able to compete with Oakridge,” said Fruitport head coach Bob German. “We missed too many close shots around the rim, though. That’s been our Achilles heel all season.”
Oakridge jumped out to a 10-4 advantage early on, but Fruitport answered with a run of their own, eventually taking a 13-12 lead midway though the second quarter.
“We answered their run early on with a run of our own in the second quarter, but they answered right back,” German added. “We knew that would probably happen because they have a couple of good shooters, and we had to be able to answer their runs, and we didn’t.”
Senior wing Iyana Brown scored 18 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and swiped four steals in her final game for the Trojans (8-13), while fellow senior Katie Veihl added six points and nine rebounds.
“We’re not going to beat anyone with 29 points, especially when we have one person scoring 18 of those 29,” German continued. “They were dogging Iyana all over the court, and we really needed to be more balanced.
“You’re never really ready for the end, because you feel like you have a chance to get back into the game until it’s over. It was a great group of girls, and I’m proud of them. I’m proud of how they battled, and we really improved as the year went on.”
German was especially proud of his seniors — Brown, Veihl and Emily Winicki — for sticking through a roller-coaster era in the Fruitport girls basketball program.
“Those three have been with me for three years at the varsity level,” he added. “It’s tough, because they were a part of a good season, then an amazing season last year, and then this season has been a struggle.
“What makes it so tough is that I really feel like we would have been in the running for a Lakes Eight Conference title with this team, but it is what it is. Those three girls mean the world to me, though. They’ve really had to carry the load for us this year, and I know it’s been tough on them.
“They got me through this year as a person and a coach. There will be some growing pains next year, but it’s going to be a new challenge for us, and that’s the way we have to look at it.”
Despite ending her high school career earlier than she would have liked, Iyana Brown was proud of her teammates for being up to the challenge of a new conference.
“I think we had a heck of a year,” she said after the game. “It wasn’t as successful as last year when we had 15 wins in a row and won a share of the Lakes Eight, but we held our heads high. We knew what kind of challenge this conference was going to be, and we never got down about it.”
Brown, who will continue her basketball career at Muskegon Community College next year, was disappointed that the team had to play Oakridge in the very first round, because the stage appeared to be set for a deeper run.
“I remember my freshman year, we played Oakridge, and they beat us in the second round that year,” she reflected. “Losing to them in the first round this year was tough, because we felt like we had a chance to make it to the district final.
“I thought we played a good game, though. We only scored in the high 20s, but we kept them well below their averages. So I’m proud of my team and how hard we played tonight.”