If Spring Lake’s varsity boys basketball team needs a reminder of what they’re playing for, all they need to do is open up their locker, where the school’s basketball banners have been photo copied.
“It’s mandatory that we have them in our lockers,” said Lakers’ point guard Adam Clauss following his team’s 46-29 win at Orchard View on Thursday. “Hopefully we’ll be adding a couple new patches to them pretty soon.”
Clauss would of course be referring to a Lakes Eight Conference championship and a Class B district title. The Lakers took a step closer to the league title on Thursday, as they improved to a perfect 8-0.
Again, it was the Lakers’ defense that set the tone. Two days after holding league rival Ludington to a mere 38 points on the Orioles’ home court, Spring Lake was at it again, as a one-win Cardinals’ squad had just one point after one quarter and 15 points on the board after three.
“We’re a little deeper now, which is key, but I believe the kids also know what’s on the line,” said Spring Lake coach Bill Core, whose squad is 12-2 overall. “They realize they’re playing for a conference title and every game matters.”
Thursday’s focus was trying to neutralize the Cardinals’ speed in the open court, as well as try to slow down senior John Leonard, who erupted for 28 points on Tuesday against Fruitport.
It was a different story against the Lakers, as he finished with only five, with two of those points coming on an impressive steal and dunk in the third quarter.
“It seems like we’ve been able to shut down everyone’s leading scorer every game,” Core said.
Senior Eric Johnson was the catalyst for frustrating Leonard throughout most of the evening, and with OV only featuring a seven-player roster, the Cardinals simply didn’t have any back-up firepower.
Spring Lake didn’t exactly light it up offensively, either, as the Lakers were sloppy with turnovers, mostly because of the Cardinals’ speed and scrappiness in coming up with loose balls.
The Lakers had just a 6-1 lead after one quarter, but began to create some distance in the second thanks to Clauss. Known primarily as a pass-first point guard, Clauss connected on three 3-pointers, accounting for all nine of his points.
“I’ve been working on my shot a lot in practice and Coach has been telling us we need to start hitting some outside shots,” Clauss said, who also had four steals.
Core said it’s huge if his squad can hit from the perimeter, which forces the defense out and lets senior forward Austin Johnson space to drive to the paint and create. He led the Lakers with 15 points.
Spring Lake had a huge advantage in rebounding, with a 51-22 margin. Johnson and Nick Goeglein each grabbed 11, while Henry McGannon came off the bench to snare six.
Core also gave praise to senior Jeff Marod, who shined off the bench with strong overall play — including four rebounds and two assists.
Spring Lake travels to Tri-County tonight and has a make-up date with Fremont on Monday.