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Leading towers

Duncan MacLean • Feb 27, 2019 at 12:26 AM

SPRING LAKE — A pair of 6-foot players is rare on a high school girls basketball team. Rarer still is finding that their leadership matches their stature and that their teammates and coach measure up, too.

The Spring Lake girls basketball team sent off five seniors — four players and a head coach — in their last home game of the season Tuesday with a dominant 61-30 victory over Ottawa Hills.

The playing careers of Jenna Core, Madeline Zenas, Leah Vaughn and Laney Peasley, along with the coaching career of Cavin Mohrhardt, will long be remembered in the Spring Lake history books.

For Coach Mo, this year’s team has been nothing but a pleasure in his final year on the bench.

“I couldn’t have ended with a better team,” he said. “This is one I will remember forever, and I’ve coached a lot of teams. This has really been the best team I have ever coached. Not the best record, but I wouldn’t trade one minute of one day with these girls.”

The players will remember coach as a productive teacher, one who always pushes improvement on and off the court.

“He pushes us to be better,” Core said. “He helps us improve every game and shows us what to work on.”

“He’s really honest with us,” Zenas said. “His coaching style is different. He doesn’t yell at us a lot, but it works. We like to work hard in practice, but have fun at the same time.”

The Class of 2019 will be remembered in a similar light, as they achieve at a high level no matter the arena. Vaughn and Peasley score highest on the softball field and soccer pitch, but bring their “A” game to the hardwood, nonetheless. Core and Zenas have led the Laker varsity squad as three-year players, excelling all over the floor, at every position.

“Leah never gives in,” Mohrhardt said. “Basketball is not her first sport, she is a great softball pitcher. I would take 10 of Leah on my team any day of the week. She is going to give you her best, no matter what. She is a star on the softball field and is a great leader and great personality here.

“Laney came out as a senior after taking off a few years and that is rare. She is one of our leaders, no question. She does the huddle breakdowns and gives 110 percent all of the time. I’m excited to watch both of them play what they truly love this spring. They are great people.

“Zenas and Core do everything for us. Literally. They play good defense, they are both offensive threats, they rebound like no one else.

“They are two girls that I absolutely love. I don’t have any daughters, I have two sons, but I would take them any day. In school, out of school, in the classroom, you can’t ask for two better people.”

From his first team to his last, Mohrhardt has learned a great deal from his time as a high school head coach.

“I have had three big things in life,” he said. “My dad, what I learned in the Marine Corps and coaching.”

“What have I learned? How to deal with parents, other coaches, kids, everything about life. How many times have you heard a coach say, ‘We are getting ready for being grown up and preparing for what is real in life.’ It’s the same thing for a coach as it is for the kids. I’ve learned everything from this experience.”

Tuesday’s game was a fine example of the senior’s resolve, as the Bengals of Ottawa Hills came to town with take-no-prisoners post play and quick defense.

The game began with four straight turnovers, two for each team, as both squads tried to adjust to the pace of play.

Core acclimated first, scoring the Lakers’ first four points. Zenas quickly got involved and things unraveled. After a tie at 2-2, Spring Lake finished the first quarter on a 10-2 run for a 14-4 lead through eight minutes.

The Lakers picked up the pace in the second, racing to a 21-6 lead in the first three minutes of play with quick work in transition. By halftime, they led 33-14.

If the second quarter was decided with fast breaks, the third was decided by defense, as the Lakers held Ottawa Hills off the scoreboard for nearly six minutes. They would finally find the net with 2:25 left in the quarter, making it an 11-2 run for Spring Lake.

The Bengals ended on a run as they activated a full-court press to end the quarter, closing the gap to 46-20 heading into the fourth.

Spring Lake worked their reserves into the lineup in the final period, giving their seniors a rousing standing ovation as they left their home floor for the final time.

Zenas led with 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, while Core added 15 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Peasley and Vaughn contributed heartily with rebounding and stifling defense. The Lakers finished the game up 49-22 on the glass and with 18 total assists.

The win puts Spring Lake at 10-9 overall. They are scheduled to finish their regular season Thursday at Caledonia with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m.

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