It’s fair to say that Muskegon Oakridge’s girls basketball team has been wired for success the past four seasons.
Actually, the Eagles have been Wiard, as in senior standout Keyara Wiard.
The 5-foot-9 scoring machine helped the Eagles clinch their fourth-straight Class B district championship Friday evening, coming at the expense of Spring Lake, 45-28.
The Grand Valley State University-bound Wiard, who has topped 1,300 points during her four-year varsity career, led all scorers with 20 points in Friday’s title game, including several big buckets in the second half that helped the Eagles maintain their double-digit advantage.
“She’s a determined player,” said Oakridge head coach Terry DeJonge, whose squad improves to 22-1 this season and will face Sparta in next week’s regional semifinals. “She made some difficult shots for us. Honestly, I didn’t like the shot selection at the time, but it’s not like she hasn’t attempted those types of shots before.”
Wiard’s scoring punch helped offset that fact that the Eagles were depleted with any height on the roster, a fact that Spring Lake tried to expose often.
The Lakers actually had a solid inside-outside attack working in the first quarter, as senior guard Brittany Beeler hit a 3-pointer and sophomore center Kelsee Zuidema scored inside, keeping Spring Lake on Oakridge’s heels at 12-9.
The Lakers remained competitive throughout the second, but it came to a screeching halt with nearly 4 minutes left in the half.
“They were hurting us inside, because we were pretty small out there, so we were forced to go to a 3-2 (zone),” DeJong said. “We had one of our post players gone with the flu. But to our girl’s credit, they fought for every rebound. We were able to get some lucky bounces and get out in transition.”
Spring Lake coach Rich Hyde said he thought his players seemed somewhat surprised by the Eagles’ switch to zone and they didn’t handle it well, resulting in Oakridge turning in an 11-0 run to close out the half.
“We tried forcing it inside instead of being patient,” Hyde said.
Spring Lake’s Jewel Wiersma scored the opening bucket of the second half on a short jumper in the lane, but it seemed like the Eagles always had an answer or a key defensive stop to shrink the Lakers’ momentum.
One of the biggest shots was a key 3-pointer by sophomore Megan Larabee late in the third, which pushed Oakridge’s advantage to 34-17. DeJonge said going forward, his team needs to shoot better than 4-of-24 from three like they did Friday, although they did a strong job of tracking down long rebounds and creating second-chance opportunities.
Wiard took control in the fourth, scoring six points in the opening 4 ½ minutes to keep the Eagles flying high.
Spring Lake couldn’t creep any closer because it received little scoring punch from its backcourt, as starters Beeler, Molly Miedema and Tori Tober combined for just seven points. The Lakers only hit 1-of-11 from beyond the 3-point line.
“Wednesday (against Whitehall), we got a three early and that relaxed them,” Hyde said. “Brittany and Molly work so hard defensively for 94 feet, and they need to get one early to relax a little bit. Tonight, we needed one bad when we were down eight or nine there (in the second). It also would have helped in loosing up their zone inside.”
Aside from Wiard, fellow strong-shooting guard Morgan Giddings added 11 points for the Eagles.
Wiersma, the Lakers’ 5-10 senior, finished her prep career with another strong effort, totaling eight points and 14 rebounds. Zuidema added eight points and 10 rebounds, while Miedema swiped three steals.
“I’m so proud at the way we came out and fought,” Hyde said. “That’s a good team we’ve faced. A team with 22 wins. We did everything we could. Those five seniors left everything they had on the court.”
The Lakers wrap up a disappointing 6-15 season, although Hyde was proud of the way his team persevered through a tough December stretch and rebounded with a strong finish, winning four of their last five games.
“It hurts now, but hopefully some day they can look back and be proud at the way we closed out the year,” Hyde said.