By Steve Gunn
ROCKFORD – For the first few minutes of Tuesday’s Class B state quarterfinals, it seemed like Spring Lake’s magical tournament run might have a chance to continue.
Then reality set in, due to Godwin Heights’ overwhelming quickness on both ends of the court.
In the end the Lakers came out on the short end of a 78-56 decision at Rockford High School, marking the second year in a row that their postseason hopes were dashed by Godwin Heights.
Godwin Heights, now 24-1 and ranked third in the state, moves on to the state semifinals.
But Spring Lake Coach Bill Core didn’t seem very defeated after the game. He watched his team struggle through a seven-loss regular season, then bounce back to win its third straight district title and its first regional championship in school history.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” said Core, whose team finished the season 18-8. “They battled for 32 minutes and proved they belonged here in the regional finals. This was the greatest tournament run in Spring Lake history. The boys should be very proud. They worked hard and made it happen.”
The Lakers came out ready to play, jumping out to an early 7-2 lead with two buckets by Kyle Zietlow, including a 3-pointer, and a basket by Keegan George.
But then the Wolverines quickness started to come into play, particularly defensively with their press and man-to-man coverage. The Lakers looked flustered and disorganized at times, turning the ball over seven times and trailing 19-15 at the first buzzer.
The same trend continued in the second quarter, with seven more Spring Lake turnovers that helped Godwin Heights grab a 36-27 edge at halftime.
Spring Lake had 20 turnovers in the night compared to 11 for Godwin Heights.
Delaney Blaylock scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half for the Wolverines. Nathan Batts had eight first half points for Spring Lake while Zach Montgomery and Kyle Zietlow each added seven.
“That was relentless pressure for 32 minutes,” Core said. “You can’t blink or take a play off or they make you pay. There’s no room for error. We thought maybe we had a chance when we got them in the bonus early in the fourth quarter, but our free throws and 3-pointers were short. We didn’t have any legs left.”
The Lakers pulled within seven points a few times in the third quarter, but ended ended up trailing 53-39 at the third break. Godwin Heights sealed the victory with a 25-17 edge in the final quarter.
Leon Redd had the hot hand for Godwin Heights in the second half, scoring 15 of his game-high 23 points. Christian Rodriguez finished with 14 points for the winners.
Spring Lake had four players finish in double figures in scoring – Batts with 14, Montgomery with 13, Zietlow with 11 and George with 10.
The Wolverines helped their cause by hitting 16 of 19 shots from the free throw line. Thirteen of their free throws came in the crucial second half.
Spring Lake converted 14 of 24 from the line. Six of the missed attempts came in the second half.