The Lakers answered the call and gave the state-ranked Tigers a serious scare before falling short, 51-39.
“In my 11 years as coach here, we had lost to them (in the district tournament) seven times, and this makes it eight,” Lakers’ coach Bill Core said. “The common factor in those games was offensive rebounds. Our No. 1 goal was to box out, and we out-rebounded them 29-25 and held them to just eight offensive rebounds.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our team and of our effort. We matched their intensity.”
The Lakers used an inspired man-to-man defensive effort to hold the high-flying Tigers to well below their season scoring average. Despite falling behind by nine points in the opening quarter, the Lakers never let the game get away from them, and when junior guard Ben Keller drove into the lane, was fouled and made two free throws late in the third quarter, he pulled his team to within five points at 37-32.
The Lakers had a chance to trim that lead down to two points when senior Michael Zietlow popped open for a 3-pointer to start the fourth, but the shot rimmed out, and Muskegon Heights slowly pulled away in the fourth thanks to a steady diet of free throws. The Tigers went to the line 18 times in the fourth quarter and 34 times on the night, making a total of 18.
“We all believed we had a shot,” said Zietlow, one of just three seniors on the Lakers’ roster. “They just made their free throws.”
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