Bear Lake downs Bears at home

BEAR LAKE — The snow flurries outside Monday night were nothing compared to the flurry of steals the Lakers used to upend the Buckley Bears in non-league play and win their fifth straight.

Led by senior McKaya Groenwald’s 12 steals and 16 points, the Lakers pressured the Bears for 21 steals total to sprint to a 46-36 victory on their home court to open the post-break season.

Even still, Lakers head coach Scott Brown saw some things in his pressure defense that the team can improve on.

Bear Lake guard McKenna Fink drives past Buckley center Emily Runyon during the Lakers’ victory over the Bears on Monday night. (Jared Buchholz/News Advocate)

Bear Lake guard McKenna Fink drives past Buckley center Emily Runyon during the Lakers’ victory over the Bears on Monday night. (Jared Buchholz/News Advocate)

“The pressure was working, but where we were getting burned a little bit was watching the back side of it,” Brown said of pressure-breaking passes. “They were throwing some of the longer stuff. … That’s something we were working on in practice. We are good on the front side, but the back side not as much, but that’ll come.”

While Brown saw some flaws in the execution, the Lakers’ (5-1) pressure was strong enough to stop the Bears from scoring more than 10 points in any quarter while gathering a lead that swelled as large as 17 twice.

“They have some good shooters and we did a pretty good job of getting out to them most of the time,” Brown said. “You are not going to stop everybody from making shots. All around the girls did a good job.”

With a stifling defense feeding the offense, the Lakers jumped to a 17-8 first quarter lead with a 14-3 run that spilled into the second quarter and saw six different Lakers put the ball in the hoop.

“They always are looking for one another. If you go back and look at every game, the scoring is spread around,” Brown said. “That is a plus, a big plus. Any coach would love to see that.”

Alycia Peterson (four points total), Erika Hejl (six) and McKenna Fink (four) each had four points in the first quarter.

Behind Cheyenne Buckner’s four-point, three-steal and three-offensive-rebound second quarter, the lead jumped to as much as 17, at 30-13, before two back-to-back Bears buckets made it a 13-point game at the half.

Groenwald finished the first half with 12 points, so Brown’s second-half strategy was simple.

“After the first half, I told her ‘You’re hot right now. Keep shooting,’” Brown said of Groenwald.

That is exactly what Buckley head coach Dan Harris did not want, as he was heard throughout the game instructing his players not to let Groenwald shoot. When they took that from her, she became a distributor, logging five assists on the night, to go with six rebounds.

“She is a great team player. She is always looking for the person who is cutting, or who’s open and she gets them the ball,” Brown said.

The third quarter was center Katelynn Millard’s time to impact the game, where she had half of her team-leading 10 rebounds and all four of her points as the Lakers maintained at least a 13-point cushion throughout.

The Lakers hit the cruise control in the fourth quarter, skating to 10-6 quarter behind Buckner’s four fourth-quarter points.

“It is a good game to come out of the break with. We have a tough one on Wednesday with Crossroads coming here,” Brown said. “We are going to have to be on our A game for that one.”

Katelyn Pruyne and Jenna Cross each scored a point for the Lakers.

The junior varsity Lakers lost to the Bears, 38-36, in a game that came down to the last minute of play. Hayley May led Bear Lake with 18 points.

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