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Lakers falter down stretch, turn over lead to Rockford

Duncan MacLean • Dec 6, 2017 at 1:08 AM

If something seems too good to be true, don’t blink— it might slip away.

The Spring Lake girls basketball team led O-K Red Conference contender Rockford at home for most of three quarters Tuesday night, but fumbled away their lead down the stretch to fall to the Rams, 45-36.

After leading 23-16 at halftime, the Laker offense faltered in the second half, scoring just 13 points to Rockford’s 29.

“We just couldn’t find the bucket,” Spring Lake head coach Cavin Mohrhardt said. “That is when the turnover bug hit us hard. Maybe it was a little panic. I’m not sure. If we correct those mistakes, we will be a tough team to beat.”

Spring Lake started the third quarter on a 6-2 run with impeccable free throw shooting and heads-up transition play. Facing a 29-18 deficit, the Rams called timeout to talk things over.

The break made all the difference. Spring Lake had the all the answers early, but was struck with amnesia in the timeout, failing to score again in the third. Rockford ripped off a 15-0 run and took their first lead since the opening period.

In the fourth, the Lakers fought back, but couldn’t catch a break on offense as their turnover struggles continued. They managed just seven points down the stretch to the Rams’ 12 to bring the game to its final tally.

“Our turnovers killed us, again,” Mohrhardt said. “I think we had more than the 36 we had in the first game. They were correctable mistakes; we were giving away easy points. We just missed a lot of opportunities.”

Spring Lake exploded out of the gate, netting the first four points of the game on two perfect trips to the free throw line by sophomore point guard Phoebe Saunders and junior center Madeline Zenas.

Rockford got their first two buckets in transition, finding their way out of a Laker press that would cause them fits later on. They took the first of two total lead changes on a split trip to the line before the press kicked in.

Saunders would intercept their next two transition attempts, taking one to the rack and dishing the second to Zenas to take an 8-5 lead. A transition basket for Madelyn Nelson doubled up the Rams, who responded with their first of five total 3-pointers to close the gap to 10-8 as the first quarter expired.

In the second, post play and free throws dictated pace as the Lakers opened with a 6-0 run. Zenas and Perkins would score from the paint, while Nelson picked up a transition put-back to open up a 16-8 lead, triggering a Spring Lake timeout.

Following the timeout, Rockford took advantage of some sloppy paint defense by Spring Lake, taking three straight possessions to the line, going 4-for-6.

Saunders would continue Spring Lake’s perfect night of free throw shooting (12-12 total) to push their lead back to 18-12, before a quick bucket put the Rams right back in it.

Rockford converted a rare half-court possession and two more free throws, while Nelson scored the Lakers’ final five points of the half via an icy 3-ball and coast-to-coast steal to bring the Laker lead into halftime.

The Rockford run in the third quarter saw countless turnovers in the post by Spring Lake, as the Rams clued into their success down low. Meanwhile, Rockford’s shooting-hand heated up as they drained three long balls during the charge.

“I don’t think we were passing and catching well in the post,” Mohrhardt said. “We have to do a better job; we have to have an inside-outside game. We shot well tonight when we did, and we have three big girls down low who rebounded well tonight. I want us shooting it.”

Nelson led the way on offense, scoring 10 points with two threes. Saunders and Jenna Core followed with eight each, going a combined 8-for-8 from the free throw line. Zenas netted six points ahead of Linsey Paggeot and Perkins with two apiece.

“We are doing the things we want to do, running and forcing turnovers, but we just wasted too many opportunities tonight,” Mohrhardt said. “Those will come and we will be a tough team to stop.”

Spring Lake continues their non-conference gauntlet with Fruitport on Friday before taking on Shelby and Reeths-Puffer next week.

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