League-leading Lakers keep it rolling

Bear Lake’s Shaely Waller drives the lane during the Lakers’ victory over Pentwater on Monday. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

BEAR LAKE — Bear Lake girls basketball hosted Pentwater Monday in a West Michigan D League contest. The Falcons kept up with the Lakers through three quarters but Bear Lake opened the fourth with a 13-2 run to take a 48-37 win and hold on to the top spot of the WMDL.

“They definitely rose to the occasion,” said Bear Lake head coach Jeff Harthun. “They knew it was important. We got up this morning — we didn’t have school today for Presidents’ Day — and we came for a shootaround. They were really serious this morning.

“I knew good things were going to happen just because of the way they were here this morning at the shootaround,” he continued. “That was a good sign.”

The Lakers (11-2, 11-0 WMDL) scored the first nine points of the final stanza to take a 39-27 lead, with Julie Schmidt, Cosima Holler and Abigail Cross scoring from the foul line, Cross sinking a baseline jumper and Hayley May hitting a corner 3 to put the Lakers up 39-27 with 4:56 left in the game.

Bear Lake made a defensive adjustment at halftime which left the Falcons on their heels the rest of the way, Harthun said.

“We had been working on a triangle-and-two,” Harthun said. “We came out in that after half because their two girls, their studs, they were on fire. They were hitting 3s in the first half. And I think (the triangle-and-two) kind of stunned them a little bit because we did not play that (in the game at Pentwater on Thursday). We just stuck man-to-man this last week.

“So we threw that out and I think it took them almost the whole quarter to figure out what it was,” he continued. “Now, (Pentwater head coach Joe Gorton) knew what it was, but (the players) couldn’t figure it out.”

After Pentwater (11-4, 10-2 WMDL) scored inside, Cross assisted on a Holler basket before hitting a 15-footer to put Bear Lake up 14 with 3:15 left on the clock. The teams essentially traded free throws until the final buzzer sounded, with May making another 3-pointer along the way.

“When they did figure out (the triangle-and-two), (Gorton) subbed and we went back to man-to-man because (Pentwater’s top two scorers) weren’t in the game together. We just kept flip-flopping and I think that kind of confused them on the floor. Not him — he’s a great coach, but they just couldn’t pick that up.”

Bear Lake handed Pentwater its first conference loss of the season with a 42-32 road win Thursday.

The two teams started the second half tied at 22. Kaitlynn Omar scored seven of the Lakers’ eight points in the third quarter, putting back offensive rebounds, scoring from the foul line and scoring in the post. Cross split a pair of free throws before a Pentwater player did, leaving Bear Lake with a 30-27 advantage after three quarters.

“I challenged (Omar),” Harthun said. “I told her, number one, we haven’t had anybody really being in double figures for any type of rebounding whatsoever — on defense or offense, and I think she kind of took that to heart today. She’s the biggest one on the court, and she should have a ton of rebounds.

“And she was putting them right back, too,” he continued. “Putting them up and putting them in, so maybe all the moons and the stars are going to align at the right time. I hope.”

Cross led the Lakers with 23 points, one assist, one block, one rebound and one steal. Omar chipped in with nine points, one block and ten 10 rebounds while May recorded nine points, two assists, six rebounds and a steal.

Cross accounted for most of the Lakers’ offense to start the game, scoring 12 first-quarter points while Schmidt and Omar each added a basket. Holler thwarted a Pentwater fast break by chasing down a would-be scorer and coming up with a big block and Bear Lake led 16-12 heading into the second quarter.

Harthun was happy to see Cross have a big game and hopes to see her sustain that level of play entering the postseason.

“(Cross) went through a little phase after Christmas where we just couldn’t get her involved in the offense for some reason,” Harthun said. “Whether she didn’t want to shoot, or when she was shooting she just wasn’t on, but she’s just found her niche these last couple games and thank God she did.

“She’s on, and it’s a great time to be on,” he continued. “We’re approaching the tournament run here and it’s a good time to really start playing ball.”

Bear Lake struggled to score in the second quarter, with May and Cross each hitting from deep to account for the Lakers’ six points in the frame. The Falcons scored the last two baskets of the half to send the teams into the locker room all tied up.

The win leaves Bear Lake in good position to win the WMDL title outright this season after the Lakers earned a co-championship last year. Harthun doesn’t want them to let up, however. There are still league games to be played and a Division 4 district tournament looming.

“Pentwater had to have that win to get a share of the league title,” Harthun said. “That doesn’t mean the league is over yet. We’ve got games to play, but that was the big game now that we’ve got the two wins over them.

“But I told the girls, ‘You can’t take your foot off the accelerator,’” he continued. “’Do not push in the clutch. Do not even touch the brake. Just keep going now.’ So hopefully that momentum will keep them going.”

The Lakers play at Brethren Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Pentwater won the JV game by a score of 23-17.


Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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