Groenwald’s late layup lifts Lakers past Portagers

Bear Lake’s McKaya Groenwald (right) drives to the basket against Onekama’s Caitlin Zielinski during the first half of Friday’s game. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate)

Bear Lake’s McKaya Groenwald (right) drives to the basket against Onekama’s Caitlin Zielinski during the first half of Friday’s game.
(Matt Wenzel/News Advocate)

ONEKAMA — In the waning moments of a tie game, McKaya Groenwald stepped to the free throw line with a chance to put her team in front.

She missed both shots.

Rather than dwelling on the missed opportunity, the Bear Lake junior looked forward to her next one. And she didn’t have to wait long.

Groenwald went coast-to-coast for a layup with three seconds left to lift the Lakers to a 48-46 West Michigan D League win against Onekama on Friday night.

“There’s one thing about McKaya, it’s that you’re never going to see her give up,” said Bear Lake coach Scott Brown. “It’s not going to go to her head. She knew the game was tied, she knew she had X amount of seconds to get to the other end. She saw the opportunity.”

Groenwald’s basket thwarted a late comeback by the Portagers, who trailed by 10 heading into the fourth and actually held a two-point lead before falling short in their season opener.

“That fourth quarter, I couldn’t ask for a better effort from my kids,” said first-year Onekama coach Jim Armstrong. “I was just so proud of the whole team. … It’s a coach’s dream to have your kids play that hard, especially in the first game.”

Groenwald led the Lakers (2-1, 1-0 WMD) with 17 points to go with 10 rebounds, four steals and three assists. Emileigh Ferguson, who suffered a cut above her left eye and missed about seven minutes while trying to stop the bleeding, finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds while Hannah Harrington scored 10 to go with 18 boards.

Caitlin Zielinski led the Portagers (0-1, 0-1 WMD) with 15 points and added five steals, Hailey Kott scored 12 before fouling out in the fourth and Kayla Kosiboski had 10 points and nine rebounds.

Bear Lake led 12-10 after the first quarter and 22-21 before Ferguson took a knee in the face — which she said after the game would need stitches — while scrambling for a loose ball with 3:03 left in the second.

“When Emileigh went down, and I’m glad she’s not seriously hurt, I thought we were going to maybe make a little run without her out there, but I thought Scotty’s kids stuck in there,” Armstrong said. “That’s when they made the move on us.”

The Lakers took a 26-23 lead into halftime and even though Ferguson was still in the locker room and didn’t return until midway through the third, the Lakers opened the quarter on a 9-0 run.

“The third quarter is always an important quarter for us,” Armstrong said. “We came out and we played flat in the third quarter.”

Between transition baskets and pounding the ball down low, the Lakers outscored the Portagers 32-12 in the paint, including 14-4 in the third, to build a 12-point lead.

“We’ve got to work on our post down low, there’s no question about it,” Armstrong said. “I knew they were going to be tough down there, but actually I thought we did a good job on Emileigh and Hannah, as far as their scoring in the post. Groenwald killed us; she goes so fast.”

Trailing 41-31 to start the fourth, Zielinski and Kosiboski converted back-to-back 3-point plays to spark the Portagers, who eventually took a 45-43 lead with 2:27 left. The Lakers struggled even getting a shot off and committed 10 of their 30 turnovers in the fourth.

“We didn’t have to force anything,” Brown said. “We threw the ball away too many times. We got in a hurry again in the fourth quarter.”

After a pair of Lakers fouled out, Alyson Fink came off the bench and drilled a huge 3-pointer to put the Lakers in front 46-45 with 2:08 to play. Groenwald went to the line with the game tied at 46 with 34 seconds left, but couldn’t convert.

“I don’t think about, I get back on defense,” she said. “I like playing defense and it keeps your head clear. You’ve got to do it for your team and not be selfish and get stuck on the shot you missed.”

A scramble led to a jump ball and Bear Lake took over with 10 seconds left with no timeouts. Groenwald took the inbounds pass and went the length of the floor for the score and Onekama, which didn’t have a timeout, never got off another shot.

“Get to the basket, draw a foul or hit Emileigh,” Groenwald said of her plan. “We knew what we were going to do, hopefully the play succeeded, and it did.”

The Onekama JV team beat Bear Lake 36-25. Grace Huges led the Portagers with 10 points while Katelyn Pruyne scored 14 for the Lakers.

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