With Muskegon Oakridge standing as potentially its most difficult challenger in the upcoming Class B district tournament, Spring Lake’s varsity boys basketball team wanted to send a message to the Eagles during their non-conference clash on Wednesday.
The Lakers didn’t cooperate with that goal in the first half, but the final 16 minutes were a different story, as they outscored the host Eagles by a 34-19 margin to pull away for a 56-41 victory.
“If it isn’t their biggest loss of the year, it’s their second-largest,” said Spring Lake coach Bill Core.
Spring Lake improves to 15-2 overall, while the Eagles fall to 13-5.
Core said a key to the second-half swing was better rebounding and greater focus on dialing up the pressure defensively.
“We were pretty disappointed at the half,” Core admitted. “They hurt us on the glass. We gave up eight offensive rebounds. They’re the biggest and best rebounding team we’ve seen since WMC.
“We did a better job of rebounding in the second half and it was done by a committee. We also put more pressure on them defensively, which got our transition game going. We got some kick-outs and some easy baskets off of turnovers.”
Senior Austin Johnson, who passed 1,000 career points early this season and has an outside chance at breaking the school’s career scoring record, scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the second half. The Lakers outscored the Eagles 18-4 in the third, and cruised the rest of the way.
Oakridge’s 6-foot-8 center, Mike Eacker, had 12 points, but the Eagles’ deadly outside shooting guard, Francis Decker, was limited to two points, thanks to the defense of Spring Lake’s Adam Clauss.
Clauss had another all-around steady game with nine points, five rebounds and five assists.
“People outside of the program don’t realize how important he is to our success,” Core said.
Junior guard Charlie Warber led the Lakers with seven rebounds, while Johnson snared six. Spring Lake received tremendous scoring balance as well, with 10 of its 12 players scoring at least a point.
Spring Lake returns to the court on Friday with a trip to rival Fruitport. The Lakers are looking to finish 12-0 in the Lakes Eight Conference, which would be the first perfect league season by any school in the brief history of the conference.