The Lakers held the Eagles to 26-percent shooting and caused 11 turnovers with their vaunted full-court pressure, but couldn’t capitalize on the offensive end.
Spring Lake finished 11-of-42 from the field and 4-of-12 from 3-point range, falling to the Eagles, 42-36, in the Class B district final on Friday night at Montague High School.
“I thought our press hurt them more than I thought it would,” said Spring Lake head coach Cavin Mohrhardt. “We needed to keep doing that, but we just got tired at the end when we really needed to create some turnovers.”
The Lakers went toe-to-toe with the defending district champs, only trailing 11-10 after the first quarter and 17-14 at the half.
“The run we had in the second quarter really helped us get back into the game, and we were in it until the very end,” Mohrhardt added. “Our shots just weren’t falling for us. Until Linsey (Paggeot) hit that 3-pointer in the final few minutes of the game, we really didn’t make a lot of outside shots.”
Rebounding against Oakridge was an emphasized key to victory for the Lakers coming into the game, and the sophomore duo of Jenna Core and Madeline Zenas was more than up to the task.
“I thought Jenna and Madeline did a nice job on the boards,” Mohrhardt added. “We didn’t end up winning the battle on the boards, but we did enough to limit their second and third chances.
“Oakridge’s first points came after a forced shot, and they shot 26-percent for the game, but they hit a lot of big 3-pointers. I thought we tightened up our defense after those first few possessions and really forced them take shots that they probably didn’t want to take due to our press.”
Senior standout Reiko Johnson scored 15 points and added three rebounds and three assists in her final game in a Laker uniform; while Core added 10 points, eight rebounds and two steals.
“I felt like we were a little slow at the beginning of the game,” Johnson said after the game. “We had a lot of jitters out there, and that kind of hurt us turnover-wise. We had some great looks, but sometimes we weren’t ready for the passes.
“We had some steals, but we just didn’t make them count, so it was basically just wasted energy.”
Johnson, who was nursing an ankle injury heading into the game, didn’t let the injury distract her while out on the court.
“It bothered me a little bit, but it’s really just mind over matter when I’m out there,” she added. “I wouldn’t have missed this game for anything. Even if I had broken my hand, I would have still been out there. It’s a bummer that things didn’t turn out in our favor, but we fought hard, and we played tough.
“It was a lot like the Whitehall game from Monday. I think Oakridge is just too fundamentally strong and too talented for us to play from behind like that. When they get up on you like that, it’s very difficult for a team to crawl back in the game. They don’t make a lot of mistakes, and you can’t expect to go on a big 12-0 run at any point, because that’s probably not going to happen.”
As the program’s all-time leading scorer, Johnson deflected her own accolades and credits the people around her for what has helped her be so successful.
“I don’t think I can take all the credit for the success we’ve had lately,” she admitted. “A whole village of people built this program. Coach Mo (Mohrhardt) has been a big influence on me over the last two years and Coach (Rich) Hyde really helped me early on in my career. I’m thankful for all my teammates that have helped me get open looks in every game, and it’s just sad that it’s over because they’ve all been a great support system for me.
“I wanted to do everything that I could to help my team win, and whatever came with that was just a little extra. More than anything, I cared about my team’s record and my team’s accomplishments, and not really my own personal records or my legacy.”
A highlight moment in Johnson’s career came three seasons ago against a familiar opponent.
“The district win my sophomore year, after going undefeated in the regular season, was probably my most memorable moment,” Johnson said. “That was against Oakridge, too. That was big accomplishment for the program and something I’ll never forget.”
Mohrhardt knows Johnson’s abilities on and off the court will be hard to replace.
“They don’t come along very often, and I wish I had one in the hopper for next year,” he added. “Maybe I do, and someone will become that next year, but there’s nothing I can say that encapsulates what she’s done here and what she’s done for the program.
“She’s made my job easy. Anybody could have done it. You just have to make sure you have five people out on the court sometimes. It’s helped me a lot as a coach, obviously, and I’m very thankful for that.”
The Lakers finish 16-7, and despite losing the program’s all-time leading scorer, have plenty to look forward to next winter.
“My seniors worked hard this year,” Mohrhardt added. “Jorden (Peppin), Reiko and Addi (Lindsey) have given a lot to this program, and they will be missed next year. What they’ve given to the two sophomores (Jenna Core and Madeline Zenas) is invaluable.
“You can see that these kids that are coming back next year are already ready to get back at it. We want to win a district title next year, and I think these girls will be motivated to do that.”