After an impressive road win at Whitehall earlier in the week, the Fruitport boys basketball team came to Spring Lake with visions of a monumental upset swimming in their heads.
The host Lakers had other ideas, however, as the emotions of the Battle on the Bayou brought out the best in the young Spring Lake squad.
Spring Lake got hot early, fed off the passion of the Core Crazies and rode that momentum like a tidal wave, as they washed out their rivals for a 57-32 win.
"We got off to a great start, and I think we just continued to build on that momentum as the game went on," said Spring Lake head coach Bill Core. "We played a really solid, complete game on both sides of the court. Offensively, I thought we shared the ball well and made the extra pass to set up a better shot.
"We didn't force a lot of shots, and we let the game come to us. This group of guys all seems to like each other, and they are fun to watch when they are clicking like that."
Kyle Wiersma led the Lakers with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Zach Keyser added nine points and a team-high eight rebounds. Sam Negen added 10 points; Cayden Ball chipped in with seven, and Grant Kieft had five.
"Zach Keyser was a beast in that first half," said Core. "He really set the tone for us with the way he was crashing the boards and playing physical in the post.
"Kyle Wiersma was doing a little it of everything out there. He was diving for loose balls on defense, setting up his teammates with accurate passes and knocking down open shots when they were there."
The Lakers held a 20-6 lead after the first quarter and a 29-13 advantage at halftime, thanks in large part to the defensive prowess of some of their forwards.
"Our biggest concerns were slowing down No. 33 (Luke Mitchell) and No. 23 (Gavin Fisher). Mitchell had 23 and 18 in their first two games and Fisher had 20 against Montague. I really thought the rotation of Negen, Wiersma, Kyle Garrison and Sam Sheridan really made it tough for them to get open looks at the basket.
"Those two have been their bread and butter so far this season, so when we slowed them down, we really controlled the game after that."
Spring Lake used crisp ball movement and aggressiveness on the glass to score 17 points in the third quarter to pull away for a 46-18 lead over the Trojans, leaving no room for any last-minute rallies.
For the game, the Lakers outrebounded Fruitport 31-21, while assisting on 16 of their 20 made field goals. Spring Lake also finished 40 percent shooting from the field, while the Trojans only managed 24 percent.
"We got off to a bad start," said Fruitport head coach Steve Erny. "We started slowly against Whitehall the other night, too, and we were able to claw back into it.
"Tonight, Spring Lake was just too good of a team to dig ourselves out of that big of a hole. We turned the ball over on three of first four possessions, we didn't run well in transition and their defense really made it tough for us to shoot our way back into the game.
"It wasn't a lack of effort, though. I think some of younger guys just got caught up in the emotions of the rivalry a little bit and didn't play within themselves. We were playing hard, but we just weren't playing smart."
Erny hopes Friday night's loss will serve as a reminder to his young squad that they can't afford to be inefficient against good teams.
"We aren't a good enough team yet to have mental lapses like that," he said. "A lot of the things we struggled with tonight were things we could control. We'll get better from games like this, and hopefully respond a little better the next time we are in a similar position.
"I was proud of the way our guys responded in that second quarter. We were down big early, and we got it back within eight points or so. In the second half, they ran a nice secondary press break, and we didn't communicate enough on defense. We also didn't box out well and got outrebounded by a pretty wide margin.
"We need to learn to be consistently good."
Spring Lake will start its O-K Red Conference doubleheader with a trip to Rockford on Tuesday, followed by a home game against Grand Haven in the annual Drawbridge Classic on Friday.
"That's going to be a tough week for us, because we will probably be underdogs in both of those matchups," said Core. "We've been able to neutralize their size in the past few years with the guys that we had, but we don't have that anymore. We're excited about the challenge though, and I know these guys will leave it all out there for those particular games."
Fruitport will play Muskegon Catholic Central on Tuesday, followed by a game against Fruitport Calvary Christian on Friday.
"We've got three games coming up before Christmas Break and then we have three weeks off after that," said Erny. "We want to show some fight in these next couple of games and head into that three-week stretch with some confidence. I think the practices during that break will be crucial for us. We could make a lot of strides these next month if we stay on course."
Freshmen: Spring Lake defeated Fruitport, 53-28. Kaden George scored 18 points, while Jackson Core added nine points and four assists.