If Spring Lake varsity boys basketball team can take away anything from its 51-35 victory against Orchard View on Wednesday, it’s the Lakers can win without senior Austin Johnson being a force on the offensive end.
The Cardinals made it their focus that Johnson wasn’t going to burn them during the Class B district semifinal game, and they accomplished that goal, limiting the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer to just seven shot attempts and three points.
But the Lakers buried the Cardinals for a third time this season in other ways, notably from beyond the 3-point line. Spring Lake connected on six of its seven 3-pointers in the first half, helping the Lakers build a 27-14 halftime lead.
“They played a packed in zone, but we’ve been shooting the 3-ball really well lately,” said Spring Lake coach Bill Core. “I honestly think they were more concerned about shutting down Austin than winning the game.”
With the win, Spring Lake secures its 20th victory of the season, the first time in program history that they’ve reached the milestone. The Lakers advance to Friday’s district championship game against Whitehall, where Spring Lake will be in search of its first title since 1995.
The Vikings defeated league rival Oakridge in Wednesday’s other semifinal, 50-48.
Spring Lake had at least 10 players score for the third straight game and that balance helped the Lakers build a 40-17 lead after three. Still, Core said he was glad when the contest was over, as the Cardinals unleashed an unrelenting — and at times out-of-control — full-court press on Spring Lake, allowing the Cardinals to score 18 points in the fourth.
Cardinals’ leading scorer John Leonard scored seven of his 12 points in the quarter, but Core was still pleased with the defensive effort of Charlie Warber and Erik Johnson in keeping Leonard under wraps for most of the contest.
Erik Johnson also had a nice effort on the offensive end, leading the Lakers with 13 points. Freshman Keegan George came off the bench to add eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Junior center Nick Goeglein grabbed nine rebounds for the Lakers, as they outrebounded OV, 37-20.
Point guard Adam Clauss had four assists, Austin Johnson added three, and Goeglein totaled three blocked shots.
Core said Spring Lake scrimmaged Whitehall during the summer, but noted the Vikings are a much-improved team now.
“They’ve beat Montague and Oakridge twice in the last two weeks, so they’re playing their best basketball,” he said. “They play good defense and I expect a very physical game from them.”