Bear Lake overturns 14-point Brethren lead, beats Bobcats in final seconds 45-44

Bear Lake’s Alyssa Eisenlohr (20) looks to score despite the defensive attention of Brethren’s Whitney Danks (22) in the Lakers’ 45-44 win over the Bobcats on Saturday. The win keeps Bear Lake at the top of the West Michigan D League title race. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Bear Lake’s Alyssa Eisenlohr (20) looks to score despite the defensive attention of Brethren’s Whitney Danks (22) in the Lakers’ 45-44 win over the Bobcats on Saturday. The win keeps Bear Lake at the top of the West Michigan D League title race. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

BRETHREN — Bear Lake reduced a three-way tie for the lead in the West Michigan D League girls basketball standings to just two, but had to come from behind to do it, in a memorable 45-44 win at defending league champion Brethren on Saturday.

The Bobcats, who fell out of that three-way tie with the loss, held a 14-point lead early in the second half but could not hold it down the stretch, thanks to a third-quarter offensive lull and poor free-throw shooting in the entire contest.

Brethren had a chance to win the game at the end in a wild scramble under the basket, but a putback attempt rimmed out at the buzzer.

Bobcats head coach Julie Riggs lamented the lack of a foul call on the play, but acknowledged that it wasn’t the reason her team lost the game.

“The first thing I looked at on the stat line was 10 of 20 from the free-throw line,” Riggs said. “There’s two points in there somewhere. And we are way better free-throw shooters than 50 percent, have been all season long.”

 When asked how his team managed to come back, and snap a four-game losing streak to the Bobcats, Bear Lake head coach Jeff Harthun said simply, “I don’t know.”

“This is probably the biggest win in most of their careers,” Harthun said. “We haven’t beat Brethren in a while, but don’t think the league was decided tonight. We still have to play them again, we both have to play Pentwater again.”

Brethren’s Mariah Pringle scored a team-high 16 points in the game, 11 of those in the second half including a layup in the opening seconds of the third quarter that gave her team a 28-14 lead.

 But that would be the only Bobcat field goal in the quarter, in which Bear Lake cut that lead in half, going into the fourth trailing by a much more manageable score of 31-24.

“We just need to come out with better intensity in the third quarter,” Riggs said. “We don’t have a good history in the third quarter, of anything happening very successfully.”

Yuki Babinec shared game-high honors with Pringle, also scoring 16 points, 11 of those in the all-important fourth quarter.

Hayley May added 11 points and Abby Cross had seven for the Lakers, but Harthun said that Cross’s biggest contribution was on the defensive end. Cross was given the assignment of guarding Pringle, initially in a box-and-1.

“Abby is our best defender, but the rest of my box went to sleep,” Harthun said. “Then we went straight-up man-to-man and Abby played (Pringle) tough, so we stayed in that the rest of the second half. I give a lot of credit to Abby, she knows what’s going on. But when we play them next time, we cannot fall asleep.”

Brethren’s Brianna Pettinato and Whitney Danks each finished the game with 10 points, but Pettinato fouled out of the game with 5:44 left in the contest, and her absence was felt down the stretch.

“She’s a senior guard, we have to have her in the game,” Riggs said. “She finished with 10 points, and she sits the whole fourth quarter. That hurts.”

The last of Pettinato’s 10 points came with 6:11 left, when she gave her team a 35-26 lead with 6:11 on the clock.

Bear Lake went on a 12-2 run from there, starting with an “and-1” 3-point play by Babinec.

Less that three minutes later, Babinec stole the ball and went coast-to-coast to complete the comeback and tie the game for the first time since 10-10.

“I was upset at halftime, and I tried to keep my cool,” Harthun said. “I told them they only had to peck away at the lead, they didn’t have to do it all at once. This is like riding a bull, sometimes you just have to hang on and hang on and hang on.”

Pringle split a pair of free throws with 40 seconds left, and Danks’s clutch putback of the second attempt gave Brethren a 44-43 lead.

Cross finished the game with a back-door layup with 15 seconds left that made the final score 45-44.

With the win, the Lakers (10-4 overall, 8-1 WMDL) share the top spot in the conference with Pentwater, and set up a potentially decisive three-day span next week.

Bear Lake will face a rematch with the Bobcats (9-5, 7-2) on Tuesday, Feb. 13 and then travel to Pentwater (10-5, 8-1) for what they hope is a de facto league championship game on Thursday, Feb. 15. But first, they will travel to Big Rapids to face Crossroads on Wednesday, Feb. 8

Despite the loss Brethren still has control of its own destiny as they host the Falcons on Monday, Feb. 19. The Bobcats will play their next four games on the road, starting tonight with a non-league contest at Marion.

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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