A cold start on offense produced a 15-9 deficit heading into the first break, which was quickly erased in the second quarter. By halftime, the Lakers led 28-25 thanks to rapid ball movement and improved defense.
Coming out of halftime, Spring Lake turned on the afterburners, using now dominant post play and blistering transition speed to balloon their lead to 10 points off the bat. Sparta chipped away at the deficit with a barrage of 3-pointers, eventually stealing the lead at 42-41 with a buzzer-beating shot from distance.
In the fourth, a tough Spartan press took its toll, slowing down the Lakers’ once overpowering transition game and limiting their energy on the offensive end. They got a rest through the final minutes, as Sparta stalled away most of the final two minutes of play with the game tied 49-49.
With under 10 seconds to play, the game resumed active play as the Spartans drove the lane looking for the game winner, drawing a foul on the shot attempt, hitting one of two free throws with 2.7 seconds left to seal the win.
“We got tired,” said Spring Lake head coach Cavin Mohrhardt. “We missed a lot of layups in the fourth quarter. We were continually in transition for a while there. I love when our girls run, but it was a long break and we didn’t have our legs.
“After halftime, we got back on the boards and starting hitting that transition game and started getting the ball down low. We found some mismatches down there and played them.
“Then, we relaxed on defense for just a few minutes and they hit three 3-pointers and get a steal on the press and it erased everything we had done. We kept getting the ball inside, but couldn’t put it in the hole.”
Jenna Core led the Lakers’ scoring with 15 points ahead of Madeline Zenas with 13, Abbi Perkins with nine and Laney Peasley and Phoebe Saunders each with six.
Paige Wilson led Sparta with 16 points, including five 3-pointers, in her first game with the varsity team, as she was pulled up for Friday’s matchup due to illness.
Overall, Sparta hit 10 shots from distance, 10-of-13 free throw attempts and just five two-point baskets.
“We knew they had good shooters, we planned for that,” Mohrhardt said. “I didn’t know their sophomore was going to be that good of a shooter. She hasn’t practiced with the team much, he pulled her up for this game because of illness and injury. So, that was a killer, she is a real player.”
Despite the loss, Mohrhardt was happy with his team’s effort and their ability to adapt over the course of the game.
“We didn’t play our game, but I was so happy with the way the girls adjusted,” he said. “They took away a lot of our offense early, so we kind of had to go out there and draw in the sand and the girls adjusted well.
“I have to give Natalie Sawyer and Leah Vaughn huge props. They gave us some great minutes tonight. Phoebe (Sauders) picked up two fouls early so they had to play then and they gave us some much-needed rest when we were up. The game wouldn’t have been nearly as close without what they did for us tonight.”
The loss drops the Lakers’ overall record to 3-2. They will return to action at Allendale Tuesday for their second shot at an O-K Blue victory.