GIRLS PREP BASKETBALL: Regional rubber match

Manistee Catholic Central’s Haley Doyle (23) battles for a rebound against Bear Lake’s Taylor Anderson during the Lakers’ win on Feb. 8. MCC and Bear Lake play in a regional semifinal tonight. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate file photo)

Sabers and Lakers play third game with spot in Class D regional final on the line

As West Michigan D League rivals, there’s always something at stake when Bear Lake and Manistee Catholic Central step on the same floor.

Tonight, there’s a lot more than usual on the line.

The Sabers (20-2) and Lakers (17-5) will square off in a Class D regional semifinal at 6 p.m. at Buckley in a rubber match after the two teams split the regular season series.

“We’re both reaching for the stars right now,” said Bear Lake coach Scott Brown.

Last year, MCC beat Bear Lake in a district championship. Now they’ll face off in another elimination game with the winner advancing to Thursday’s regional final against the winner of tonight’s other semifinal between Leland (10-13) and No. 9 Gaylord St. Mary (21-2).

MCC and Bear Lake played a pair of close games this season and each defended its home floor as the Sabers won 47-38 on Jan. 4 and the Lakers responded with a 42-40 win on Feb. 8. That was MCC’s only loss in the D League and only against a Class D opponent with the other setback coming in the season-opener against Class B Mason County Central.

In the first matchup, Bear Lake was hampered by 33 turnovers. However, Brown said his team has handled pressure better lately, citing Friday’s 47-26 district championship win against Frankfort.

“I think we’ve learned a lot over the year on how to handle pressure better,” he said. “Frankfort, of anybody, puts on a good man-to-man full-court press and we handled that quite well the other night.”

In the rematch, MCC squandered a double-digit lead early and McKaya Groenwald knocked down a pair of free throws with 22 seconds left to lift the Lakers to the win and snap MCC’s 13-game winning streak.

“We kind of let that one slip by,” said MCC coach Todd Erickson, “but that’s OK because it gave us a reorganization of what we were doing and from then on we’ve played pretty strong.

“We’ll break down some things that we did wrong when we played them (in Bear Lake) and try to adjust to stuff they’ve been doing. Hopefully we put things together, maintain composure and play a nice ballgame.”

The Sabers edged Brethren 45-36 in the district semifinal and routed Pentwater 62-31 on Friday for their third straight district title. Erickson said his team will be without freshmen Mia Hogan and Jodi Janowiak tonight because they’re on a school trip to Washington, D.C., but he will return starting point guard Alysha Heck, who had to miss last week’s games due to a suspension.

“It’s hard when you have some of your kids gone,” Erickson said. “(Getting Heck back) will be a boost for us.”

This will be MCC’s third straight appearance in the regional round while the Lakers are coming off their first district title since 1994.

“I don’t know about an advantage, I just think our kids have been at that level of having that big of an impact,” Erickson said. “They understand you have to have it every time you’re out on the floor for every minute.”

Brown is expecting his team to excel in the next round of the playoffs.

“My girls right now, I think, really are starting to peak,” he said. “I think a lot of it is due to their confidence.”

 

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