Portagers, Lakers set for district semis

Bear Lake guard Cody Brown (center) makes a pass between a pair of Lake Leelanau St. Mary defenders during Saturday’s regular-season finale. Bear Lake will play Frankfort while Onekama faces Mesick in district tournament semifinals tonight at Mesick. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate)

Due to the reshuffling of district tournaments this season, Onekama and Bear Lake were split from their Manistee County rivals.

Manistee Catholic Central and Brethren are part of an all-West Michigan D League district at Baldwin, ensuring the league will have a postseason champion.

The Lakers and Portagers are each a win away from making that happen to the north as well.

Bear Lake (12-8) faces Frankfort (16-5) in a 6 p.m. Class D district semifinal tonight while Onekama (13-8) will play host Mesick (3-17) in a 7:30 p.m. semifinal with the winners advancing to Friday’s championship.

“You don’t get to the next one until you get the first one,” warned Onekama coach Jim Hunter about looking ahead.

The Portagers beat Forest Area 75-69 in a Monday quarterfinal for their first postseason win since 2009.

“It was good to get it out of the way,” Hunter said. “You get one under your belt and the next one may be a little easier. The kids have played on the court now so they’ll be a little more familiar with it.”

Onekama watched Mesick lose to Forest Area late last month, and the host Rangers got to scout tonight’s opponent on Monday. The Portagers trailed Forest Area at halftime but broke out a press in the third quarter as they went on a big run and held on for the win.

“It’s always tough playing a home team on their floor,” Hunter said. “They got to sit back (Monday) … and saw pretty much everything we can do. I’m expecting a real tough game.”

Frankfort routed Buckley 80-37 on Monday to earn a semifinal date with Bear Lake. The Lakers got a chance to scout the Panthers earlier this season and know what they’re up against.

“Basically, what it boils down to is we have to limit David Loney’s touches as much as possible and we have to box out,” Bear Lake coach Garret Waller said. “They have some good 3-point shooters and we have to contest the shooters.”

Frankfort won its first 11 games of the season and was ranked as high as No. 5 in the Associated Press poll. The Panthers stumbled a bit down the stretch by losing four of their last nine, including three straight, but have plenty of youth and talent and are an aggressive defensive team.

“We’ve seen a lot of man-to-man this year,” Waller said. “We went down to West Michigan Christian and saw probably the most aggressive man-to-man you’ve ever seen in your life. Hopefully it was a learning experience and it pays off and we can handle the pressure.”

Bear Lake lost senior point guard Nick Streeter to a season-ending knee injury in January and junior Cody Brown has been forced to pick up the slack. He and the rest of the Lakers should be tested heavily tonight.

“In my mind we should be able to handle it,” Waller said of the pressure. “Losing Streeter doesn’t help. Cody’s going to have to get it done for us or we’re going to have some problems.”

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