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Spring Lake Girls Basketball Preview

Duncan MacLean • Dec 3, 2018 at 8:30 AM

The Spring Lake girls basketball team features the cream of the Laker athletic crop this winter and has the experienced leadership to steer the battle-ready ship.

Over the course of their three seasons on the varsity team, senior captains Jenna Core and Madeline Zenas have seen leaders come and go, playing styles succeed and fail, teams vibe and clash and have been taking everything in all the way.

Their extended time observing has led them to one conclusion: actions speak louder than words.

"They are quiet as mice. They just truly lead by example," said Spring Lake head coach Cavin Mohrhardt. "They aren't 'ra-ra' leaders. They aren't the ones who will be leading the cheer, but they will make sure the cheer gets done. They are going to make sure people are here, putting the work in. All the small things that need to get done that make a team, they are making sure they happen.

"There are certainly other girls on the team that are more boisterous, but no one is going to work harder or lead better than those two."

Their temperament lends itself to leadership, but it isn't by accident. The pair has seen their fair share of styles, and have even gotten an early crack of their own, as they served the volleyball team as co-captains this fall.

"We both think leaders should lift each other up," Core said. "Having a positive attitude is really important. That's what I've always liked from captains. Leading by example like that works well."

Staying light seems to be the perfect weight for this year's Laker team, one that can get caught up in the clouds at times, but respects when work needs to be done.

"We are a little bit of everything this year," Zenas said of their team's demeanor. "We are a small team, so sometimes we can lose ourselves a bit. Coach calls it getting on our airplanes."

"Sometimes, they just get flying and never come down for a landing," Mohrhardt said with a smile.

"We have our moments," Core acknowledged. "But, when we need to get serious, we do. When we need to work on scouting reports or preparing for our next game, we know what needs to be done."

"Nobody outworks them," Mohrhardt added. "When things get tough, running sprints and such, they never complain. They aren't in your face, yet. I'd like to see them get that way, but they push themselves so you want to do it."

While their leadership style may fly under the radar, their play on the court certainly doesn't. Both Zenas and Core stand above 6-feet tall, making their combined presence on the floor something to behold.

Zenas handles things in the paint, gobbling up rebounds and putbacks with ferocity and a unique affinity for running the break. Core has developed into a modern-basketball dream, employing her reach all over the court, defending multiple positions, hitting jumpers, and getting out in transition.

When asked about their strengths, both seniors know where they stand and contrary to their demeanor in practice, aren't lacking in confidence.

"Down low for me," Zenas said.

"I feel like I can play anywhere," Core added.

Agreeable leadership is hard to come by; the Lakers have it in spades, making the versatile array of weapons at their disposal all the more effective.

On top of their dueling towers in the post and on the perimeter, Spring Lake has even more length in their bag, as returning standout Abbi Perkins lines up near 6-feet and new varsity recruit Madeline Lisman tops them all coming off the bench.

Add in a fiery returning point guard, Phoebe Saunders, whose speed and ball handling defied logic last season in her first run around the varsity gym; a few unique defensive threats in Laney Peasley and Natalie Sawyer; a jack-of-all-trades player in Leah Vaughan; plus a sharpshooting freshman in Jennifer Judge; and you have yourself a dangerous batch of ball players.

Coach Mohrhardt seems optimistic about his lineup.

"It feels like we are a week ahead of where we usually are because of the experience coming back," he said of preseason training. "You would think it would be all post play, but Phoebe can definitely shoot and can take it to the hole.

"We've always liked to run, and I think that will be our game, and we should be able to rebound very well.

"If Abbi is in the game, then Jenna can be playing outside, so we will have some nice inside-outside game and be able to create some mismatches there. But, I think you will see Phoebe taking over. She will direct traffic.

"Last year, Madeline (Zenas) and Jenna's stats were almost identical. If they both had a good game, we were tough to beat. Now, if you start concentrating on those two, you better watch out for Phoebe, Jennifer, Abbi, it goes on.

"We are going to be much deeper than I thought. Peasley hasn't played basketball in a few years but is a great athlete. She is going to help us press and run. Not many people will be able to keep up with her. Of our two juniors, Lisman is another big person that will give us good minutes in zone and some good rebounding. Natalie will be a utility player who can guard the 1, 2 or 3.

"We've got some athletes on this team."

Those athletes come from far and wide. While Core, Zenas and Peasley dominate the volleyball court in the fall, Saunders tears up the golf course for the Lakers, before joining Peasley and Zenas on the soccer pitch in the spring. Vaughan is an All-State pitcher for the softball squad, while Core holds the Spring Lake career home run record with a full season left to play. The list goes on.

All that crossover makes for bubbly team chemistry.

"We all play a lot of different sports together," Zenas said. "So, we are familiar in that kind of way. We know how to play together in a lot of different ways. It feels like we have a lot of potential."

"We know how to do things as a team," Core said. "It helps us talk about things in different ways."

That cross-sport experience means those up top know exactly what they are getting out of their teammates, and vice versa.

"We have a lot of basketball smarts in the young girls, and I bet we play really good defense," Core said.

"We are all really different with really different skills," Zenas said. "We have speed, shooting, height, rebounding. No one person is going to be dominant."

The wealth of athletic experience isn't lost on Mohrhardt, who keeps tabs on his players all year long as the Spring Lake athletic director.

"It's scary," he said. "I keep saying if they have a halfway decent coach, they should be pretty good. I have a lot of talent to work with. A lot of these girls are two- or three-sport athletes. The thing is, basketball is probably their second or third sport across the board, and they are still pretty damn good at it. That says a lot about them, only history can tell what it says about me."

Time will tell, and the clock is ticking. The Lakers open up their season at Rockford on Dec. 4, followed by a rivalry matchup with Fruitport at home Dec. 7.

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