Maybe a fire alarm set off inside Spring Lake High School during halftime of the Lakers’ varsity basketball game on Friday was visiting Orchard View’s sneaky solution at trying to cool off senior Austin Johnson.
Although the alarm delayed the action for nearly 15 minutes, it surely didn’t slow down Spring Lake’s dynamic scoring forward.
Johnson poured in a season-high 34 points on 14-of-25 shooting, and carried Spring Lake to a tougher-than-expected 51-36 victory over the winless Cardinals.
After the contest, Orchard View head coach Scott Warsaw greeted Johnson in the hallway.
“I just wanted to say it was a joy watching you compete against us,” Warsaw said to a smiling Johnson. “Now we need to get you out of here and get you graduated.”
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they’ve still got one more regular-season tussle against Johnson and the Lakers.
“He’s the best player we’ve faced this year,” Warsaw said. “The thing’s that sticks out about him is his composure. He sees the court so well and knows when to attack and when to keep it out and play. He’s a tough matchup.”
Still, for a 0-8 squad, the Cardinals gave Spring Lake all kinds of fits with their matchup zone through three quarters.
OV’s scrappy, guard-dominated lineup forced Spring Lake into some sloppy play early, as the Cardinals almost dared the Lakers to beat them from the outside.
“We were only 2-of-10 from the 3-point line in the first half and when you start out a little cold against a zone like that, you start thinking and maybe you start short-arming some shots and passing up good looks,” said Spring Lake coach Bill Core, whose squad improves to 6-1 this season. “We forced 11 turnovers in the first half, but we didn’t convert. It just seemed like there was a lid on the hoop in that first half.”
Spring Lake had just a 22-21 lead at the half, and then the Cardinals stormed out of the gates to open the third by scoring on their opening two possessions.
After that, Johnson and the Lakers took over.
Instead of attacking the clog of players in the Cardinals’ zone, Johnson showcased his range by connecting on back-to-back 3-pointers. His triples ignited a 14-2 run for the Lakers.
During the rally, Orchard View suffered a big blow, when its leading scorer, wing John Leonard, was whistled for his fourth foul, and after the call, apparently lost his cool and said some magic words to the officials, which drew a technical foul and a permanent seat on the bench.
“That’s a key play because all of a sudden, we’ve got a 10 point lead going into the fourth with their top scorer on the bench,” Core said. “You hate to see it play out like that, but I also have to give credit to my captain (point guard Adam Clauss) for seeing a 1-on-1 situation (with Leonard), taking advantage of it and drawing a foul.”
Warsaw argued the technical call with the referees, but also said his team shot itself in the foot by heaving too many bad shots.
“I think a bit of it boiled down to our poor shot selection,” Warsaw said. “Instead of working it around for a good shot, we rushed it a little bit.”
With those misses, Core felt his squad did a better job of cleaning up the defensive glass and pushing it in transition, where Johnson with a full head of steam is difficult to stop.
Although Spring Lake lacked scoring balance with its next highest scorer totaling just four points (Erik Johnson), Core liked the steady play off the bench from senior Jeff Marod, who handled the Cardinals’ pressure very well. Clauss also was sound with the rock in his hands, as he totaled five assists and three rebounds.
Johnson snared 10 boards to tally a double-double, and also had three steals.
Junior center Nick Goeglein, who Core said is making steady improvement every game, swatted three blocks.
Senior Keith Melton paced OV with 10 points, while Leonard still managed nine despite missing the entire fourth.
SL HOSTS NO MORE SIDELINES ATHLETES TODAY
For the sixth-straight year, Spring Lake High School will host the athletes from “No More Sidelines.” The non-profit group features children and young adults with special needs and gives them an opportunity to enjoy athletics in various settings.
From 10 a.m. to noon today at Spring Lake High School, the Lakers’ varsity girls and boys basketball teams will guide No More Sidelines’ athletes through drills and encourage them in a scrimmage.
“It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved,” said Core. “The smiles you see on their faces from getting an opportunity to play is what it’s all about, but our kids are smiling the entire two hours as well.”
Subway is providing free lunch for everyone involved. For fans who wish to check out the action, admission is free.
Core said local youth basketball coach Jim McGannon has played a pivotal role in scheduling No More Sidelines athletes to participate in several events throughout Michigan, including a recent trip to Ann Arbor, where they were able to rub elbows with the University of Michigan women’s basketball team on the court.