The loss was yet another example of how close the Lakers are to breaking through and building into a conference and district contender this season, as the squad held a late lead over the Broncos, only to see it evaporate due to poor execution down the stretch and a few missed shots at the rim.
Both squads caught fire early on, as the Broncos galloped to a quick 19-17 lead after the first quarter. The Lakers responded with a run of their own, outscoring Coopersville 15-8 in the second quarter thanks to the play of junior center Lucas Lyyski and senior guard Kyle Wiersma. Lyyski would finish with 12 points in the first half, while Wiersma added eight.
The third quarter turned into the Vaughn VanTil Show, as the senior guard knocked down three 3-pointers to spearhead a 20-point quarter for the Broncos. However, Spring Lake's Cayden Ball and Grant Kieft each knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in response to help the Lakers hold a 50-47 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Both teams exchanged lead changes down the stretch, as the Lakers couldn't quite put the Broncos away due to a 3-for-6 performance from the free-throw line. Coopersville's Connor Helsen got open for a corner 3-pointer that tied the game at 63 with less than a minute to play.
In an attempt to get the ball down the court in a hurry, the Lakers' ensuing inbound pass sailed into the hands of a Broncos defender and Coopersville held for the final shot of regulation. The final shot attempt would be contested by the Lakers and fall short, as the two teams prepared for overtime.
In the extra session, Coopersville would outscore the Lakers 13-6, as Spring Lake missed three shots at point-blank range and turned the ball over three times, as well. The deciding play of the game came with a minute left in overtime, as VanTil drove the lane, got fouled and finished for an and-one opportunity that gave the Broncos the lead at 68-65. The Lakers would miss their next shot attempt and be forced to foul from that point on to extend the game.
Coopersville would make seven of their 11 attempts from the line to seal the dramatic road win.
"We did so many good things tonight, and we're so close," said Spring Lake head coach Bill Core after the game. "We've been plagued by not playing a full game and not being able to finish down the stretch. Tonight, it was a little bit of everything. There was some poor shot selection in that fourth quarter and overtime, some turnovers in critical moments, and we just didn't make enough plays in crunch time.
"I feel for the boys because they play so hard, they are so coachable, and they really wanted this one. We did so many good things, but Coopersville just made more plays than us in the final minutes of regulation and then in overtime.
"It was just a lot of little things that added up to us losing another close one."
VanTil scored a game-high 26 points to lead the Broncos (8-7, 5-3 O-K Blue), while Helsen added 12 points and Blake Stewart added nine.
Lucas Lyyski led the Lakers (4-12, 1-7 O-K Blue) with 17 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, while Sam Negen added 14 points and Kyle Wiersma added 10. Cayden Ball and Grant Kieft each added nine points.
"We are just lacking that experience in how to close out games and how to win these close ones," said Core. "The problem is, the only way to gain that experience is by winning. We're so close and that's why losses like this are so frustrating.
"Because we are so team-oriented, we don't really have that one guy that is going to be our superstar finisher. We have to do it by committee, which takes trust. We've got a couple of guys that want to be that closer for us, and sometimes, they try a little too hard to make those plays."
Spring Lake looks to snap its losing streak Tuesday with a home contest against Comstock Park (4-8, 2-4 O-K Blue) with tip-off set for 5:30 p.m.
"The biggest thing we talked about in the locker room after the game was that if we can keep plugging away at this and keep learning and improving, the district tournament isn't too far away," said Core. "If we can put together a strong performance that week and hoist that district championship trophy, we won't remember how the regular season went.
"Right now, we aren't good enough or consistent enough to do that, but we're going to keep working hard and getting better in these next few weeks. We did so many good things tonight, and I'm so proud of these kids for their effort. We just weren't able to finish."
Junior varsity: Spring Lake defeated Coopersville, 48-38. Jaron Little and Kaden George each scored 17 points to lead the Lakers, while Reid Colquitt, Grant Vansingel, Callum Saxe and Logan Darling helped turn in an outstanding defensive effort in the first half to help spark a 28-6 run to end the first half.
Freshmen: Spring Lake defeated Coopersville, 54-25. Hunter Throop led the Lakers with 13 points and six rebounds, while Travis Throop added nine points and eight rebounds and Jackson Core added five points, seven steals, six assists and two blocks. The Lakers are now 12-2 on the season and 7-0 in the O-K Blue.