Lakers pull away from Cougars

Bear Lake falls just short of 100 points in 99-72 victory

BEAR LAKE — The pace at which Bear Lake plays leads to a plentiful dose of shots night in and night out. On nights like Friday, when the Lakers can hardly miss, points are sure to follow suit.

Bear Lake fell a point short of the century mark in a 99-72 West Michigan D League win over Crossroads Charter Academy to sweep the season series.

SQUARED UP: Crossroads’ Josh Henderson (21) rises up for a jump shot against Bear Lake during West Michigan D League boys basketball action on Friday. The Lakers topped the Cougars, 99-72. (Pioneer photo/Dylan Savela)

SQUARED UP: Crossroads’ Josh Henderson (21) rises up for a jump shot against Bear Lake during West Michigan D League boys basketball action on Friday. The Lakers topped the Cougars, 99-72. (Pioneer photo/Dylan Savela)

“The ball was just going in the hole, compared to the other night,” said Lakers coach Garret Waller, citing a narrow escape of Mason County Eastern on Wednesday. “We were hitting some shots, taking it to the rim strong, and turning defense into offense which is what we’re after.”

All five starters scored in double figures for the Lakers as Reilly Merrill led the way with 26, Shane Peterson scored 23, Tyler Johnson had 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals, Cody Brown scored 14 with 10 assists and seven steals, and Bryson Waller netted 11 to go with seven boards.

The Lakers (11-2, 10-1 WMD) led the entire game, but didn’t get up by 30 until midway through the fourth. After trailing 28-7 after the first, the Cougars surged with 33 second-quarter points to close the gap to 51-40 by the break.

“Honestly, we played a hell of a basketball game,” said CCA coachJason Kostecki. “Coming in, we knew they could score. There were a couple of stretches where we threw the ball around, but for the most part I thought we handled their pressure. I’ll take 72 points any night.”

Crossroads (5-11, 4-9 WMD) had a trio of players in double figures as Aron Garland scored 24 with five boards, Josh Henderson scored 20 with four boards and Kevoceya Vanassche had 10 points and three assists.

With an 11-0 run early in the first and a 9-0 run to cap the frame, Bear Lake looked to be well on its way to a rout. The Cougars, however, began to find seams in the full court pressure and knocked down their shots on the other end in the second, where they outscored the Lakers 33-23.

“I was happy offensively that second quarter — I always am when we score 20, because if we do that every quarter we’ll be hard to beat — but giving up 33 wasn’t good,” Waller said of being up just 11 at halftime. “We weren’t contesting hard enough on shots. They hit three threes and a lot of long twos and our weak side guards were loafing back on the press.

“We weren’t sprinting back, so we addressed that at halftime and cleaned it up a little bit.”

The Cougars cut the gap to 53-45 by hitting their first couple of jumpers — including a three — to start the third, but it would be as close as they’d get.

The Lakers responded with an 8-0 run and ballooned the lead to 80-57 by the end of the third.

Another eight straight points to start the final frame gave Bear Lake its first 30-plus-point lead of the game at 88-57, and they were able to cruise from there.

“Bear Lake is a very good team that starts all seniors,” Kostecki said. “The first quarter I thought our pace was a little slow, but the last three quarters, our effort was excellent.

“That’s a team that can hurt you from all over,” he added. “I don’t think I’ve ever been happier after a 27-point loss, but this was a good game for us.”

Waller gave the Cougars credit for sticking with the Lakers as long as they did, but was more than happy with the win, which keeps his team right at the heels of league-leading Baldwin.

“(CCA) battled us hard, and we expect that,” he said. “We’re up towards the top of the conference, so everyone’s going to bring their A game at us. We always hope to bring it back at them.

“We cannot drop another conference game, in my mind, to have a chance at the title.”

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