Lakers are district champions

Bear Lake’s girls basketball team poses with the trophy it earned by winning the Class D district championship Friday night. The Lakers defeated Brethren 37-31 in the district final. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Bear Lake’s girls basketball team poses with the trophy it earned by winning the Class D district championship Friday night. The Lakers defeated Brethren 37-31 in the district final. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

BRETHREN — Bear Lake dug itself out of an early hole and held off a furious Brethren comeback attempt to bring home the district hardware.

The Lakers led by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter, saw the Bobcats cut that lead to two before salting away a hard-fought 37-31 victory and the 2017-18 district championship Friday night.

Yuki Babinec led the Lakers with 13 points and Hayley May added 10 for the Lakers (17-5), who advance to the Class D regional tournament at Big Rapids Crossroads. They will face Fruitport Calvary Christian (19-3) in the regional semifinals on Tuesday.

“This is a very big deal for me,” Babinec said. “It shows how hard we’ve worked all season. We did it for our community and our team and our coach.”

Brethren started on a 7-1 run in the opening 4:12 of the contest, but then suffered nearly a ten-minute field-goal drought from there. The Bobcats never led the contest again, but they, almost inevitably, made it a nail-biter down the stretch.

“We probably played the best defense we have all year,” Bear Lake head coach Jeff Harthun said. “We got a little tired there in the second half and they started lobbing it to Mariah, but they did everything I told them to do tonight, and that’s their trophy.”

The district final was the third meeting of the year between the two county rivals, with the Lakers taking the two regular-season meetings by a combined margin of victory of three points.

“We wanted it a lot more than in the last two games, I think,” Babinec said. “We worked really hard this week, and we wanted it.”

For the Bobcats (15-7), it was the fifth consecutive season that ended in the district final.

Brethren head coach Julie Riggs said that her locker room was a very sad place.

“I’ve got a lot of broken hearts in there,” Riggs said. “It was a physical game down low, and we were working for the points down low. Our outside shots weren’t dropping tonight, so we had to go to the paint.

“They hit outside shots and we didn’t.”

Mariah Pringle led all scorers with 18 points in her last basketball game in Columbia Blue, and scored her team’s last 14 points in the game.

Megan Cordes had 5 points and Whitney Danks and Brianna Pettinato scored 4 each for the Bobcats, who trailed 33-24 with 5:52 left in the game before Pringle stepped up and scored 7 points in a row to make it a one-possession game, 33-31 with 1:28 left.

But Brethren would not score again.

Bear Lake’s nerves were tested even more down the stretch when Babinec had to come out of the game, suffering from a breathing issue that has hampered her since the Christmas break.

Brethren was forced to foul, and Babinec went down hard several times. After splitting a pair of free throws, she sat down with 30.3 seconds left.

Babinec has also been plagued with a painful hip pointer, but insisted that the Bobcats were neither intentionally malicious nor aiming for the injured hip.

“No, I landed on my other hip every time,” she said. “I knew they had to foul at the end, so I knew it was going to happen.”

After a breather, Babinec came back for the closing seconds of the district championship.

“She’s an athlete, she’s not going to quit,” Harthun said. “She gave me everything she had. I turned to her and said, ‘You got your breath?’ She said, ‘Yep, I got it.’ That’s what you do when you’re a senior, you catch your breath and you go back in.”

Bear Lake’s regional semifinal at Big Rapids Crossroads will tip off at approximately 7:30 on Tuesday, after Onekama (12-10) faces the top-ranked team in Class D, undefeated Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart, in the other semifinal at 6 p.m.

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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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