League-leading Lakers pull away from Sabers

Bear Lake’s Cosima Holler floats up a shot Thursday night during the Lakers’ West Michigan D League victory over Manistee Catholic Central. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Bear Lake girls basketball made the short trek to Manistee Catholic Central for a West Michigan D League showdown Thursday. Baskets were hard to come by in the first half, but the Lakers had a big third quarter and went on to win 38-21.

“In the first half it was like we hadn’t played a game in a month, and you could tell,” said Bear Lake head coach Jeff Harthun. “That’s the one thing I hate about Christmas: You have to play after Christmas.”

Bear Lake’s (5-0, 5-0 WMDL) Cosima Holler converted a 3-point play to open the game. Alyssa Eisenlohr split a pair of free throws before Jenna Bialik hit a 3-pointer for MCC (3-3, 3-1 WMDL). Holler split a pair of free throws and Manistee Catholic’s Rylee Feliczak scored inside to leave things at 5-5 heading into the second quarter.

“We’re just not there yet. We’re not playing smart,” said MCC head coach Todd Erickson. “To me, that’s how I’d sum it up. That’s how I look at it. We’re not playing smart together, and smart defensively.”

Leah Stickney hit an elbow jumper to put the Sabers up 7-5 to start the second quarter. Those were to be the only points in the frame for MCC, while Hayley May converted a 3-point play and Holler made a layup to give the Lakers a 10-7 advantage at halftime.

Despite the poor first half, Harthun felt his team’s defense was solid throughout the game.

“I’m never worried about our defense too much,” Harthun said. “I’ve got seven seniors. I’ve had four of them since (they were) freshmen on the varsity. It was the offense in the beginning of the game (that was lacking). I was like, ‘I don’t know where it is. I don’t know what you guys are doing.’ They were running something man-made.”

Holler led the Lakers with 16 points, three rebounds, two steals and a block. May finished with 10 points and four boards and Abigail Cross had six points, three assists and five rebounds.

The Lakers opened the second half with a 10-0 run, with May slicing through the lane for a score, Holler scoring three consecutive baskets and Cross sinking a pair of free throws to put Bear Lake up 20-7 with 4:18 left in the third quarter.

“There are some things we’ve been working on defensively in the pressing area,” Erickson said. “We really don’t press much. We had a couple glances at it tonight. That still needs a lot of work.”

Both teams entered the contest undefeated in WMDL play.

Nicole Kaminski hit a 3-pointer for MCC, but the Lakers rattled off seven points in a row when Olivia Hejl hit a baseline jumper, May hit a 12-footer, Cross sunk a pair of free throws and May split a pair. Kaminski hit a 15-foot jumper at the end of the third to make the score 27-12.

“You go down at halftime, you yell at them a little bit, and say, ‘Listen. Forget it. It’s done. The rust is off. Come back in the second half,’” Harthun said. “I told them before the game started it was going to come down to foul shooting.

“Once we started making some foul shots in the second half, we got that little cushion, and then, it really helped that Feliczak got in foul trouble,” Harthun continued. “We were keying in on her, obviously. And it hurt Todd. Their offense runs through her. I guess it worked for us.”

The two teams traded baskets throughout the fourth quarter and MCC was never able to get back into it.

The Sabers had players in foul trouble throughout the night and Feliczak fouled out with 3:33 remaining in the game.

“When we run into foul trouble like that — and I thought (the refs) called a good game — we have to learn to adjust our play when you have one foul,” Erickson said. “And really adjust it when you have three. That’s everybody. We had a couple that were in foul trouble tonight.”

Kaminski led the Sabers with eight points, four assists, four rebounds, four steals and a block. Feliczak recorded seven points, two blocks, two boards and two steals while Bialik finished with four points, two assists, five rebounds and three steals.

While not thrilled with the Lakers’ play in the first half, Harthun was happy to walk away with a win and pleased with how his team improved in the second half.

“The second half we were a totally different team,” Harthun said. “I told them they did well in the second half, and that’s what we’re going to build on. We’re going to forget about the first half. But other than that, I’ll take it.”

Both teams next see action Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in WMDL contests, with the Sabers competing at Pentwater and Bear Lake hosting Brethren.

MCC won the JV game 26-25, with Ashley Van Aelst hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:17 on the clock.

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