Lakers get a leg up in WMDL race with win over Baldwin

Bear Lake’s Trey Gilbert (left) dribbles around Baldwin’s Amondo Jennings (right) during the Lakers’ 82-70 win over the Panthers Thursday night. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

Bear Lake’s Trey Gilbert (left) dribbles around Baldwin’s Amondo Jennings (right) during the Lakers’ 82-70 win over the Panthers Thursday night. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

BEAR LAKE — Bear Lake boys basketball was able to put the West Michigan D League on notice with an impressive opening-night win over Baldwin on Thursday night.

The teams battled with the helter-skelter pace throughout the night for the Lakers to pull away down the stretch with an 82-70 win.

“Our mission was to make this a statement game and let people know that we’re for real,” Bear Lake coach Garret Waller said.

“No excuses. They just came out and we didn’t handle the pressure real well tonight. That was what did us in,” Baldwin coach Scott Pedigo said.

Bear Lake never trailed against the defending league champions, while implementing its full-court pressure from the opening tip.

Laker senior guard Gary McBride scored six points in the first two minutes to go up 8-5, but an acrobatic shot by Baldwin’s Blake Dockery closed the gap back up on the next possession.

Turnovers plagued the Panthers towards the end of the first, allowing Bear Lake to take a 25-15 after one, headlined by a deep three from Laker senior guard Kaiden Hejl to close the quarter.

“What we do all the time is work on turning our defense into offense. We’re trying to make the game hectic and crazy. That’s the way we want it,” Waller said.

The Panthers settled down a bit to start the second with Dockey laying it in, followed by a couple of baskets by senior Armando Jennings and Scotty Ancomb to pull back in with four at 30-26 midway through the quarter.

As soon as Baldwin made its run, the Lakers came back to pull ahead 40-30 at the break after a fast-break slam from Hejl.

“Our defense was okay at points, but I think it was really just the turnovers and the transition points,” Pedigo said.

Baldwin went to Dockery in the half court out of the locker room and he scored his team’s first eight points of the second half to pull back to 45-43 with 4:59 to go in the third. Once again, the Laker pressure began to speed up the Panthers, and they would make a little bit of a cushion again.

Hejl scored nine more in the third to give Bear Lake a 58-51 lead going into the fourth.

The pressure continued in the fourth while in one 80 second span the Lakers grew a five-point lead to 16 at 73-57, largely spearheaded by McBride and junior guard Trey Gilbert’s play on the press.

“In timeouts I’m talking about backing out of the press, and they’re saying ‘no, we’re good.’ We opened that up to a 16-point lead because they wanted to stay in the press,” Waller said.

After pulling by 16, the Panthers were able to make a small run late to pull back with their last nine points all coming from Dockery, but Bear Lake would ultimately pull out the 82-70 win.

“It hurts us in the conference battle having a loss, but it is what it is,” Pedigo said. “We’re always playing for March. The conference is always our first goal, but right we just need to learn to play together.”

Hejl led the Lakers with 28 points and 7 assists, McBride had 19 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists, and Gilbert had 16 points, 5 steals and 4 assists.

“Kaiden played a great game,” Waller said. “We see it all the time in practice. After some of the shots he makes we look at each other and just wonder how he made it. That’s a quick team. Baldwin has a good team and they were having problems guarding him.”

For the Panthers, Dockery led the team with 28 points and 10 rebounds, Jennings had 17 points and 5 rebounds and Anscomb 16 points and 5 rebounds.

Bear Lake will be back in action on Tuesday at home against Manistee Catholic Central.

Baldwin will return on Monday at Lake City.

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Posted by Brian Fogg

Brian is the sports writer for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3110 or bfogg@pioneergroup.com.

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