Friday’s 58-45 loss to Petoskey at Grand Haven’s Lakeshore Cup was another tough test, made harder by yet another slow start for Spring Lake. A 14-7 deficit through the first quarter ballooned to 28-13 at halftime and held at 37-22 heading into the final period.
“This is the third game in a row we have been behind by almost 20 points at halftime. Rockford, Grand Haven and, tonight, Petoskey,” said Spring Lake head coach Bill Core. “You can’t just dig that big of a hole and expect to catch up against good teams.
“It’s disappointing that we have to make it such an uphill battle. But, we don’t quit. I really like this team a lot, but we have to be more consistent.”
Points were tough to come by for the Lakers, who shot 8-for-27 from the field through the first three quarters, contributing mightily to the deficit.
“The biggest thing is we just can’t put the ball in the hole,” Core said. “I really thought that three-point shooting was going to be one of our strengths this year, I think it still could be, but we have struggled out there so far.
“We really lack a big, go-to post player who is going to score. Zach and Noah and Isaiah work their tails off, but they aren’t guys we can just clear out and go to. So, we have to be able to score in transition, we have to be able to score from the perimeter, and we just haven’t done that consistently.”
Sam Negen led Spring Lake with 13 points, ahead of Noah Verlinde with eight, Kyle Garrison with seven, and Kyle Wiersma and Cayden Ball with five each.
The Lakers ended the game with some energy, saving their best quarter for last as they scored 23 of their 45 points in the fourth.
After pressing for most of the game yielded mixed results, Spring Lake forced three straight turnovers for Petoskey twice in the final period, closing the deficit to 10 points with three minutes to play.
The Northmen recognized the threat and gathered their wits, sinking eight straight free throws to finish 15-for-19 from the line in the fourth quarter to quell the comeback.
“We had 22 points at the end of the third and then went and scored 23 in the fourth quarter,” Core said. “That isn’t us doing anything different, it is just us doing the same things, but better.
“We said at halftime we needed more ball pressure and we had to push the ball faster up the court. We did that. Then, they were almost perfect from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, so, Petoskey did a good job of closing out.”
The loss casts a talented roster in a tough light as Core continues to search for the perfect personnel combination.
“We just have to be more consistent,” Core said. “Right now, all the guys make enough plays to think they should be playing all the time, but very few of them are consistent at all phases of the game. We are a collection of individual skills. It’s a coach’s nightmare to figure out who is going to go out there and play consistently well. We have a lot of guys to choose from, but I have to get the right five.
“You can hit two threes and think you should be in the game, but then you don’t go and box out on rebounds. Or, you grab every rebound that you see, but you can’t score any points. We have to be able to play more consistently.”
Now sitting at 2-3 on the season, Spring Lake will look to return to .500 today as the Lakeshore Cup continues. They are scheduled to face Traverse City West at Grand Haven High School at 2:30 p.m.