After Brittany Beeler swiped away a careless dribble near mid-court, drove the other way and converted a layup with a Coopersville player in hot pursuit midway through the third quarter, it appeared that Spring Lake’s varsity girls basketball team was well on their way to their first victory of the season.
Apparently, the Broncos still hadn’t hit their stride.
Unbeaten Coopersville erased a 26-23 deficit by closing the third quarter on a 12-1 run, ruining the Lakers’ hopes of a win on their home court and sending them to 0-3.
Spring Lake closed to within six points on a pair of occasions in the fourth quarter, but could creep no closer in the 45-38 final.
“That two-minute flurry they had (in the third quarter), that hurt us,” said Spring Lake coach Rich Hyde. “We were in race-horse mode there. We controlled the tempo the entire time like we planned, but we got a little out of control during that stretch. We did not have quite the same legs that we had earlier and we didn’t get a hand up on their shooters. They made us pay.”
Coopersville sank back-to-back uncontested 3-pointers to kick-start their third-quarter rally, and then received a tough bank shot from freshman guard Sammi McCarthy, as she absorbed some contact from Lakers’ center Kelsee Zuidema, but still had enough strength to power up the shot off the board and through.
“They present a lot of mismatches,” Hyde said. “They all can handle the ball and they all can shoot. I told the girls that we really didn’t need to game plan, because everyone needs to do the same thing (defensively).”
Coopersville’s balanced scoring — which was a strength in its opening two victories — again played a major role on Friday. The Broncos had six players score five or more points, and were led by junior forward Quiana Cornelius’ eight.
Spring Lake started slow with turnovers and rushed shots and fell behind after one quarter, 13-6.
The Lakers fought back, however, with superb play from their post attack. Senior 5-foot-11 forward Megan VanDeWeg had career highs of 13 points and nine rebounds, while Zuidema, a sophomore, added nine points and 14 rebounds — eight coming on the offensive end.
Spring Lake outrebounded the smaller Broncos by a substantial 39-24 margin.
“Megan had a phenomenal game for us,” Hyde said. “It was great for her. She got some offensive putbacks and really did a good job of sealing off her girl and getting good position after we reversed the ball.”
Spring Lake took its first lead of the second half at 22-20 on a nice backdoor cut and layup by Jewel Wiersma. But the senior forward later tweaked a tailbone injury she’s been nursing and could not return to action in the fourth.
After Coopersville connected on its first 3-pointer of the third to re-take the lead, the Lakers got a jumper from junior Breanna Williams and Beeler’s steal and layup to take their largest lead of the game at 26-23.
But the positive vibes would be short-lived.
Again, Spring Lake struggled throughout the game at the free throw line, connecting on just four of 20 attempts.
“We work on (free throw shooting) every day. I don’t know what else to do,” Hyde said.
Hyde was also disappointed by a second-straight game with an abundance of turnovers, as the Lakers committed 30 against the Broncos.
Still, Hyde saw offensive improvement and glimpses that the light bulb is starting to go off for his squad.
“I think we gained a lot tonight,” he said. “I can see some positive steps. It’s just going to come to us. Right now, it’s chemistry issues. We’ve got a lot of new players learning how to play together. We’re doing the right things, just our hands and feet are not there working together.
“They’re starting to see what we’re asking from them, but once they feel it, I imagine it will be a lot better.”
Beeler and fellow senior guard Molly Miedema each had three assists and three steals, while Williams had a nice night with seven points and three steals.
The Lakers’ quest at their first victory won’t be much easier on Tuesday, as they host a talented and undefeated Shelby squad.