The Spring Lake boys basketball team took on Forest Hills Central on the campus of Cornerstone University for the Lakers' fourth straight Class A matchup, falling to the Rangers, 87-63.
Forest Hills Central finished 14-for-26 from the three-point line, equaling the Lakers' free-throw numbers for the evening.
"Momentum is a funny thing. Once they got hot and confident, it seemed like everything fell, and we had an uphill battle," said Spring Lake head coach Bill Core. "It is called a showcase for a reason, and they put on a show. I don't think we played very badly. You have to give credit where credit is due. Forest Hills played a whale of a game tonight and were firing on all cylinders.
"I think we did good things and played a great game, but Forest Hills played a great, great game."
An effective press from Forest Hills kept the Lakers on their toes early but didn't cripple their offense entirely. Spring Lake held a brief lead at 8-7 early in the game before two straight turnovers pushed the Rangers ahead and the three-point barrage began.
Four Forest Hills three-pointers spread the floor for the Rangers, opening up the paint for devastatingly-smooth drives to the hoop. The combination led to a 27-19 Rangers lead at the first break.
Struggles from the free-throw line put Spring Lake behind the 8-ball by halftime, as they finished 5-for-12 in the first half from the line. Four more Forest Hills three's threatened to bust the game open, but the silky midrange jumper game of Spring Lake's Sam Johnson, transition scoring of Jack VanWingen and solid post-play by Griffin Lorimer and Jason Keena kept the Lakers on the edge of contention coming into halftime trailing, 48-33.
"We were scoring toe-to-toe with them in the first quarter there, and at halftime, we said we need to play better and don't expect them to shoot as well in the second half," Core said. "We did do some good things offensively, but we ran into a buzz saw today."
Forest Hills Central's shooting did cool off in the third quarter, as they only dropped two from downtown, but that didn't stop their slashing game. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Rangers' ballistic offense had gotten out of hand, as the Lakers trailed, 70-49.
Undaunted, Spring Lake kept up the pressure, working their proficient midrange and post game, along with a shooting streak by Cayden Ball, to cut the lead to 15 midway through the final frame. A Ranger timeout broke Spring Lake's momentum and back-to-back Ranger 3's on the other side buried the rally for good.
The game was decided with three minutes left, as both teams pulled their starters. The Ranger reserves were eager to continue the rout, hitting another set of back-to-back 3's to finish off the game on a run.
"I'm a little disappointed with how much we let them get to the rim," Core said. "I think we were afraid to come off the shooters and help, so it was a double-edged sword. They were just clicking on all cylinders tonight.
"That is a nice team, I think the best we have seen yet this year. We knew they were good, we saw today that they were really good. That is part of the reason we took on this tournament is to play some really good Grand Rapids teams. It is a feather in our cap to get invited and play in this facility."
Leading the Lakers from the floor was VanWingen with 15 points, ahead of Lorimer with 12, while Cayden Ball and Sam Johnson each poured in nine points. Keena scored eight, Adam Boes had five and Sam Negen had three to round out the stat book.
VanWingen, Johnson, and Lorimer all pulled down five rebounds to lead the team, while Lorimer led the way with four assists and Johnson smashed four blocks.
"We scored enough," Core said of his offense," Our point total of 69 at Grand Haven is our season-high and that took two overtimes, so we did some good things today."
Tyler George led the Rangers with 26 points, ahead of Andrew Tebeau and Mitchell Wilkinson with 11 and James Scholler with 10.
"George got really hot, which we knew he could," Core said. "And they had some other kids play really well. It was just their night tonight. I think they beat most other teams in the state with their effort tonight."
The loss is the first of the season for the Lakers, who took on Fruitport in their season opener before stringing together four straight matchups against Class A schools.
"We need to come back with two days of hard practice, eat a little humble pie and come back ready for Friday." Core said. "We don't want to lose twice in this showcase, we want to show we deserve to be here."
The Cornerstone Showcase continues for Spring Lake on Friday as they take on Wayland at 6 p.m.
Junior varsity: The Spring Lake junior varsity team defeated Forest Hills Central 55-24 to improve to 4-1 on the season.
Freshmen: The Spring Lake freshmen team fell to Forest Hills Central 68-55, falling to 2-3 on the season.