By Jason Goorman
Local Sports Journal

It was not pretty a win by any means.

But the Spring Lake girls basketball team will take a victory over cross town rival Fruitport any day. Add in a share of the Lakes 8 title and you have some very happy Laker fans.

The Lakers topped Fruitport 36-33 on Friday night and earned just their third conference title in the school’s history. They will at least share the title with Ludington. If Howard City Tri-County beats Orchard View on Saturday, there will be a three-way tie.

“Both teams had some opportunities tonight,” said Spring Lake coach Rich Hyde. “But when it’s all said and done and we have a three point victory, we’ll share the conference championship any time.”

Junior guard Ayna Gordon was the difference for Spring Lake Friday. Gordon hit a three-pointer just before halftime to put Spring Lake up 19-12 at the break. She also broke a 27-27 tie late in the game with another shot from behind the arc.

“Both of those threes were huge, she’s the hero of the night for us,” said Hyde about Gordon who missed three weeks of the season due to mono. “To have Ayna step up and hit that, I couldn’t have been happier.”

Once Gordon put Spring Lake up 30-27, the Lakers were able to hold on despite shooting a dismal 7 of 20 from the free throw line on the night. They especially struggled in the fourth.

Haylee Hanks and Iyana Brown kept the Trojans in the game late hitting a pair of 3-pointers to keep Fruitport within striking distance.

But Spring Lake utilized a strong presence around the basket to hold Fruitport to few second chance opportunities on offense. It also held offensive threat Brown to just seven points.

“Our job was to make sure Brown wasn’t going to run out,” said Hyde. “Most of their scores were on the transition where they took turnovers and turned them into points.”

Kelsee Zuidema and Courtney Kyser were magnets around the basket for Spring Lake and had 14 rebounds each. The Lakers pulled down 37 rebounds as a team while Zuidema finished with 10 points and Kyser finished with four.

Freshman point guard Reiko Johnson fought off constant double teams and finished with 10 points for Spring Lake.

The Lakers’ presence around the basket was key to their win.

Kelsee Zuidema and Courtney Kyser were relentless on getting key rebounds for Spring Lake. Zuidema finished with 14 rebounds and Kyser pulled down 14 of her own as well. The Lakers had 37 rebounds as a team.

“We held them to a lot of one and dones and that really was a key for us tonight,” said Hyde. “A lot was at stake for these  16 and 17 year old kids. Two cross town rivalries and that’s what it’s about.”

Fruitport was led by Caitlin Hughey with eight points and Breanne Burns finished with seven. Francesca Cerniglia chipped in six points.

Spring Lake finishes the regular season at 13-7 and 9-3 in the Lakes 8.

“You didn’t know how the pieces would fit together,” Hyde said looking back at his team at the beginning of the season. “To make a run with kids like this is really special.”