Lakers, Portagers enter tough field

For nearly a month and a half, Onekama coach Jim Armstrong has been talking about his team turning a corner at the right time.

Now riding a six-game winning streak that started all the way back on Feb. 12, it appears the Portagers have turned and are headed to into a Class D district opening game with No. 1 Frankfort on Monday with as much momentum as they possible can muster.

“We talked about going around that corner and we are getting close now. … I think we are just about at the top and we are going to make that corner,” Armstrong said.

For Armstrong, that momentum equals confidence, something he knows his team will need in spades to knock off a team with state-championship aspirations.

“We have to go in there expecting to win and not hoping to win. … I think that the girls are starting to buy into that,” Armstrong said.

The district tournament opens with Bear Lake (15-4) playing Buckley (5-15) at 6 p.m. on Monday, followed at 7:30 p.m. by the Onekama (16-4) and Frankfort (19-1) game. Fife Lake Forest Area (2-16) and Mesick (2-18) were awarded byes into the semifinal round to play the respective winners. The final will be played at 7 p.m. on Friday

“We are going into a hostile environment, which is a great environment for Frankfort — they are great sports and have great enthusiasm and that makes it a great place to play in,” Armstrong said of the Frankfort-hosted district. “We are going up there with more confidence than in years past.”

The Lakers don’t have a state-ranked team in their path to the final and are hoping they can continue a trend of four-straight appearances in the district’s final game, and that starts with Buckley.

When the Lakers played their opening-round foes in their only meeting this season, a 46-36 victory on Jan. 4, it showcased the team’s strength: speed and intelligence.

Buckley is a much larger team than the Lakers, but they simply ran them off the court en route to 21 steals and countless transition layups with machine-like efficiency.

“We are fine tuning or fine oiling the machine right now. We want everybody to be at their peak when we get there,” said Bear Lake coach Scott Brown. “Buckley has some good shooters so we can’t let them get out there to shoot the ball. We just have to run them.”

If the Lakers get past both Buckley and Forest Area, they will be making their fourth-straight trip to the district finals. Senior McKaya Groenwald has been on all of those teams, winning one in 2013 against Frankfort.

“She has been to the district finals the last three years in a row. We are 1-2,” Brown said. “I think it means a lot to her and the seniors, just to get to that game and have that opportunity for payback or redemption.”

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