By Lucas Rains

SPRING LAKE – Last season, a very young Spring Lake girls basketball team surprised everyone with a very respectable 13-8 season and a Lakes 8 Conference title.

With the main core of the roster returning this season, it figured that the Lakers would be very good.

Spring Lake's Reiko Johnson, left, and Kelsee Zuidema

Spring Lake’s Reiko Johnson, left, and Kelsee Zuidema/Photo Jason Goorman.

But they have been much more than that. They have posted a perfect 18-0 overall record, with an 8-0 league mark, with two regular season games to go, both this week.

The biggest one is Monday, when the Lakers will try to clinch another league championship with a rematch against second-place Ludington.

So how has Spring Lake gone from being a good team last season to a great one in 2014-15?

“It’s been a lot of things for us,” said Spring Lake Coach Rich Hyde. “We’ve taken advantage of perfect timing in our schedule. We have very balanced scoring, led by two superstars and some good pieces around them. The girls are loose and casual, just taking things day-by-day.

“We never set out to be undefeated as one of our goals. Our first goal is always to win the conference.”

There have been some close calls for the Lakers lately, most recently a 29-26 win in Ludington just over a week ago.

Hyde welcomes the challenges that opponents have given his team in the last couple weeks.

“We wanted to be tested to the point where we can handle those kinds of games,” Hyde said. “We haven’t had many of those. You can’t really practice those things until you’re thrown into the fire of a game. It’s impossible to re-enact the atmosphere of a game like that.”

The Lakers are led by a pair of standouts – senior Kelsee Zuidema and sophomore Reiko Johnson – who each bring a different skill set to the table.

Zuidema is dominant in the paint, averaging 16 points and eight rebounds per game this  season. She has been on varsity for three seasons, and a full-time starter for the last two.

Johnson, while just a sophomore, is a force from the outside who’s averaging 16 points, four assists and four steals.

Johnson transferred to Spring Lake as a freshman for academic reasons, and Hyde feels fortunate that she brought her basketball talent to the program.

“They’re a perfect complement to each other,” Hyde said of the Lakers’ dynamic duo. “They’re a great in-and-out combo. If teams want to stop Kelsee down low, then Reiko can make things happen. If defenses try to defend the perimeter, then Kelsee can take over.

“Kelsee has been getting better every year. She’s unstoppable in the post when she wants to be. Reiko is unstoppable as a point guard.  Her ball-handling and the ability to create off the dribble this young is phenomenal. She just makes those around her that much better.”

After the showdown with Ludington on Monday, the Lakers will wrap up the regular season with a home game against a tough Orchard View team on Friday.

“We have to take it one game at a time and focus on winning each individual game,” Hyde said.