Lakers gut out win at Mason County Eastern

Bear Lake’s Emily Belinsky (13) drives past Mason County Central’s Lydia Howe (10) during the Lakers’ 41-40 win in Custer Wednesday night. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

Bear Lake’s Emily Belinsky (13) drives past Mason County Central’s Lydia Howe (10) during the Lakers’ 41-40 win in Custer Wednesday night. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

CUSTER — For 31 minutes Wednesday’s game was one that Bear Lake girls basketball would rather forget, but a wild come-from-behind rally in the final minute of the game leaves the Lakers in a first-place tie in the West Michigan D League race.

The Lakers (6-1 overall, 4-0 WMDL) didn’t shoot the ball well in the game, but were able to hold of a scrappy Mason County Eastern team 41-40. The Cardinals (2-5, 2-3) led 40-34 with 50 seconds left in the game, but a series of turnovers and fouls set up a chaotic minute of basketball with Bear Lake playing a nearly-perfect minute.

Yuki Babinec drained two free throws with 4.5 seconds left on the clock to give the Lakers the final lead of the game, while MCE fouled twice in the final 10 seconds of the game.

“Obviously nobody wanted to foul at the end,” MCE coach Bill Cole said. “That doesn’t take away from what those two kids did all game for us. We could have maybe had one less turnover in the first half or made a couple of free throws.”

As a team Bear Lake shot 27 percent from the field and had 14 turnovers in its first game back in nearly a month.

“This was our first game since Christmas, and we haven’t played a game in almost a month. I told them that I’ll give them two minutes to play sloppy, but then it’s out,” Bear Lake coach Jeff Harthun said.

“It continued. I get that. I know the end of the game is what everybody is going to remember. They put their heads down a little bit, but they didn’t give up.”

Neither team got going early in the game and it was tied at six after one.

Bear Lake had to find a way to scrap a few buckets to regain its footing. Olivia Hejl made two baseline jumpers to help carry the Lakers into the half with an 18-15 lead.

Starting the second half it looked like the Lakers finally figured things out with back-to-back and-one plays from Abby Cross and Hayley May to pull ahead 26-20.

Bear Lake was playing without center Kaitlynn Omar, who was out with an illness, and the Cardinals made them pay by going down low to their center Jenny Appledorn. She was able to work down low, and she finished with 17 points. When the Laker defense would collapse, she was able to kick the ball out to Taylor Dykman, who had 15 points on five three-point shots.

An 8-0 run by MCE started by those two gave them a 28-26 lead going into the fourth.

“She (Dykman) had 15 and Jenny (Appledorn) had 17. They played well, but we need to distribute our points a little better than that, and at the end to take care of the basketball a little better,” Cole said.

Babinec, who only had four points in the first three quarters but finished the game with 14, started the fourth fast with two three pointers from the elbow to take the lead back. The teams traded turnovers down the stretch in the fourth, but Dykman hit twice from deep to give the Cardinals a 40-34 lead in the closing minute.

The turnovers continued for MCE, while Bear Lake finally played with a sense of urgency. The final-minute comeback started with a layup from Alyssa Eisenlohr and an MCE turnover set up a three from May to make the game 40-39 with 29 seconds left.

In the final 10 seconds of the game the Cardinals fouled Babinec twice. On the first foul she missed the front end of a one-and-one, but the the Lakers got a rebound on a scramble for the ball, and on the next time to the line she drained both shots for the win.

“That was a complete team win. Everybody had a part in that tonight. I told Yuki, even though she wasn’t hitting her shots, that she had to do something else. She had to drive and dish it off,” Harthun said.

To go along with the 14 points from Babinec, Cross had 9 points and 4 rebounds, and May had 8 points.

Bear Lake will be back on Friday when it hosts Pentwater (6-4, 4-1).

Mason County Eastern won the junior varsity game 32-15.

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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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