By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
The Mona Shores girls basketball team might have just one win, but the Sailors might just be the best one-loss squad in the area.
And Ludington might just be one of the area’s best teams.
The two collided Friday night in the final game of the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Girls Basketball Classic, with Ludington winning 44-37.
The Sailors got their first win Thursday night, downing Spring Lake 51-31, while Ludington defeated Muskegon 61-45 in Thursday’s early game.
While Ludington’s D’Erika Varenhorst again dominated underneath, scoring a team-high 13 points to go with Thursday’s 26-point effort, Friday’s star was the Sailors’ Jasmyn Walker, who poured in 18 points and fought for 13 boards in the losing effort.
But for awhile there, it looked as though the Sailors would pull off the comeback.
“When I saw Walker wasn’t playing all that much in the first half, I took that as a positive for us,” said Ludington head coach Thad Shank. “But Mona Shores is about as good a one-win basketball team as   you’re going to find. So we knew they would come out and throw a lot of full-court zone pressure at us. And we were going to have to handle it.”
Ludington looked dominant over the first two quarters, holding the Sailors to just four first-quarter points to lead 24-11 at the break.
And yet, despite getting 8-for-17 shooting for the first 16 minutes, suddenly entering the third the Orioles’ shooting touch fell off, going 1-for-6 across an 11-2 Mona Shores run that cut Ludington’s lead to four, 26-22.
Alas, the Sailors would manage to make just four of their 13 free-throw changes in the quarter, stalling the comeback just as it was getting started.
“We missed seven free throws in a row at one point,” said a frustrated Brad Kruth, Mona Shores head coach.
Varenhorst got the Orioles back on track, nailing back-to-back buckets to halt the Sailor run, while teammate Rachael Petzak banged home a three-ball to finish the frame. The Orioles led 35-25 after three.
Varenhorst and Petzak headline a solid core of a half-a-dozen Ludington seniors who make the Orioles so strong.
“When you have six seniors like we do,” said Shank, “with four of them (having) played varsity basketball now…this is their third year, you just have experience that’s key in situations like  this.”
He pointed to his senior point guard, Logan Meeker, as the person most responsible for helping right the ship.“She did an incredible job of recognizing defenses, and calling out what we needed to do offensively, and putting us in situations where we can be successful out there on the court. When your point guard really has control of the game like that, a handle on the game like that, it makes it great for a coach.”
Meeker had just two turnovers all night, while dishing out six assists and claiming four steals.
The Sailors kept chipping away, though, whittling Ludington’s lead back down to four points, 41-37, with a little over a minute to go. Walker was on fire during that stretch, scoring nine of Mona Shores’ 12 fourth-quarter points, and showed good power in the paint on offensive boards and putback baskets. But the Sailors missed their final six shots and the comeback bid came up short.
Petzak’s and-one conversion provided the final result.
“The difference,” said Kruth, compairing his team’s play in the two halves, “was that the tenacious girls I know that didn’t show up in the first half, showed up in the second half.”
 There certainly were some other bright spots for the host Sailors to consider.
Besides Walker’s play, Mona Shores outrebounded the Orioles 35-28, the first such team to do that against Ludington all season.
“We do a lot of little things well,” said Kruth. “We’ll outrebound you, we’ll get after you defensively. But the bottom line is, we have to put the ball in the basket.”
Varenhorst also finished with 13 boards, with Kalli Wahr tailing five more for Ludington.
Sailor junior Amy Gillings had three steals.
Ludington 44, Mona Shores 37
Rachael Petzak 2 2-2 6, Kristen Reidenbach 2 1-1 5, Kalli Wahr 0 2-2 2, Logan Meeker 1 1-2 4, Maressa Sarto 2 1-3 5, Molly Hallead 2 0-0 6, D’Erika Varenhorst 6 1-4 13. Totals 15 8-14.
Rachel Adams 1 0-0 2, Amy Gillings 0 1-2 1, Morgan Smith 0 0-5 0, Brooke Ledsworth 0 1-2 2, Meredith Smith 3 2-4 9, Corrine DeWitt 1 0-0 2, Jasmyn Walker 8 2-6 18, Sarah Jones 2 0-0 4. Totals 15 6-19 37.
Ludington 9-15-11-7-44
Mona Shores 4-7-14-12-37
Three-point field  goals: Meeker, Hallead (2), M. Smith. Total fouls: Mona Shores 15, Ludington 14. Fouled  out: none. Technical fouls: none.