Austin Johnson wasn’t even a twinkle in his parent’s eye the last time Spring Lake’s varsity boys basketball team defeated neighboring rival Grand Haven on the basketball court.
That year was 1987, and most of the current Lakers wouldn’t be born for another seven or eight years.
“That’s kind of crazy,” Johnson said.
With the way it stands after Friday, consider it an official re-birth of a rivalry between Grand Haven and Spring Lake on the hardwood.
The host Lakers scored their first victory against their cross-river rivals since the rivalry was renewed in 2007, leading the Bucs from start to finish in a 50-42 final before a near-capacity crowd of 2,000 fans at Spring Lake High School. After the final buzzer, Spring Lake’s packed student section — which produced deafening cheers throughout the tight contest — rushed the floor and surrounded their victorious team in a joyous celebration.
“Our alumni and community, I’m happy for them,” said Spring Lake coach Bill Core, who had lost to the Bucs five-straight times prior to Friday. “For me, I’m old. I’ve never beat Grand Haven as a varsity coach. We’ve had some other nice wins, but obviously, this is very special. It’s going to make the New Year really nice in two weeks.”
Spring Lake improves to 5-1 this season, while the Bucs — who badly struggled offensively for the second-straight contest — fall to 3-2.
In a game where seemingly every possession was vital, it was the Lakers’ suffocating man-to-man defense that frustrated Grand Haven throughout, even when the Bucs threatened by closing to two points at the end of three quarters.
But Grand Haven’s opportunity to grab a potential lead painfully slipped away, as the Bucs missed two layups and two free throws in the quarter and could never recover in the fourth. They finished 14-of-38 from the floor.
“The way it played out, (Spring Lake) deserved it,” Grand Haven coach Steve Hewitt said dejectedly afterwards. “It’s a game and you gotta earn it and they earned it by the way they played.
“Right now, we’re just struggling to score. We did a lot of good things defensively, but if you can’t score, you can’t win.”
Junior Varsity: Grand Haven held off Spring Lake, winning 53-45. Schaefer Thelen led the Bucs with 21 points, while B.J. Nahal had 11 and Tyler Wiedeman scored 10 for the Bucs (5-0).
Freshmen: Grand Haven topped Spring Lake, 54-27. Sam Ventocilla and Sam Pranger each scored eight for the Bucs.
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