By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal
The drought is over for the Spring Lake Lakers boys basketball team.
With Friday night’s 53-46 victory over the scrappy Whitehall Vikings, the Lakers hoisted a district basketball trophy for the first time since 1995. That means most of the Laker players hadn’t even been born yet.
“Every fan got their money’s worth tonight because that was really a great game,” said Spring Lake coach Bill Core. “Two high school teams that laid it all on the line.
The team that carried off so many district titles was Muskegon Heights, which won a Class C district title on Friday night.
It wasn’t an easy task for the Lakers, who came into the game with a much better record, but was up against a team that had been playing its best basketball at the end of the season. And now the Lakers are heading for the Class B regional at Fremont, where they will take on Sparta, a 61-59 winner over Fremont on Friday night.
“We were playing good basketball and we’ve got good basketball in us,” Whitehall coach Nate Aardema said.
Whitehall (9-13) used emotion and good shooting to grab the upper hand in the first half.
The Vikings canned three 3-pointers in each of the first two quarters to gain a 30-28 lead at the half. Isaac Love led the way with three 3-pointers.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Frank Owens and Love gave the Vikings a 21-16 lead and later in the quarter had a 23-18 lead, its biggest advantage of the night.
Love then canned a long 3-pointer at the buzzer for that two-point halftime lead.
“We were crossing our fingers that maybe they wouldn’t shoot as well in the second half,” Core said. “They cooled off a little bit, but hit a couple early in the third and maybe they are not going to cool off. What it came down to was our defensive stops.”
Austin Johnson went to work for Spring Lake in the second half. He scored nine points in the third quarter and eight in the fourth. He finished with 26 points.
The game remained in the balance well into the fourth quarter. The team were deadlocked at 39-all after three quarters.
When Erik Johnson scored off an inbounds play it gave the Lakers a 45-43 lead, which they never relinquished.
Whitehall pulled to within two points on several occasions, but could not muster a tying basket.
Down the stretch, Spring Lake got buckets from Austin Johnson and free throws from Erik Johnson to put the game away.
“Spring Lake is a great team and we matched them bucket for bucket and rebound for rebound,” Aardema said. “And our scrappiness. I will never question any of the kids if they fight, obviously in a legal way.”
“Nate had his team prepared and they played great,” Core said. “They shot the ball well. That’s a heart breaking loss for them and we feel for them.”
Spring Lake 53, Whitehall 46
Devontae Vance 4 4-6 14, Dylan Medendorp 1 0-0 3, Frank Owens 3 0-0 7, Matt Rohen 3 0-0 7, Matt Russell 2 0-0 4, Isaac Love 4 0-0 12. Totals 17 4-6 46
JP Batts 1 0-0 3, Charlie Warber 0 1-4 1, Austin Johnson 10 4-6 26, Erik Johnson 6 2-2 15, Matt Goeglein 3 2-4 8. Totals 20 9-16 53
WH 13 – 17 – 9 – 7 – 46
SL 14 – 14 – 11 – 14 – 53
3-pointers: Vance (2), Owens, Rohen, Love (4), Batts, Austin Johnson (2), Erik Johnson. Fouled out: Russell. Total fouls: Whitehall 15, Spring Lake 9. Technicals: none.