By Dave Hart
SPRING LAKE – The Spring Lake Lakers have been specializing in revenge during their Class B tournament run.
They avenged two regular season losses in district tournament play, against Whitehall and Coopersville.
Now they’re out to get even with Godwin Heights, a team that beat them twice last season, including a tough loss in the regional finals.
The two teams will meet Tuesday in a Class B state quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. at Rockford High School. The winner will advance to Friday’s state semifinals at Michigan State University against the survivor of the Milan-Otsego quarterfinal.
The state title game is Saturday.
On the surface a win over Godwin Heights seems like a tall order for the Lakers, because the Wolverines are 23-1 and ranked third in the state.
But Spring Lake has been playing like a team that isn’t afraid of anybody, with a five-game winning streak in the tournament.
That didn’t seem very likely during the regular season, when the Lakers went 13-7 and saw their two-year run as Lakes 8 Conference champions come to an end.
They lost four of five games on the road during the regular season. They also lost two conference games, which is one more than they lost the two previous seasons.
The regular season schedule ended on a particularly sour note, with a last-second 50-49 loss to Muskegon Catholic with the Lakes 8 title on the line.
But the Lakers have been on fire since then, downing Whitehall, Orchard View and Coopersville in districts, then Newaygo and Holland Christian in regionals.
The victory over a very tall Holland Christian squad produced the first regional title in school history.
The Lakers fell behind by 10 points in the first quarter, then clawed back to claim a 49-46 win. They displayed tough defense down the stretch, scoring their final points with about three minutes left, then defending their thin lead to the buzzer.
Keegan George scored a game-high 19 points for the Lakers in the big win, while Kyle Zietlow added 13.
“That (Muskegon Catholic) loss left a bad taste in our mouths,” said Spring Lake Coach Bill Core. “It helped us refocus and rededicate ourselves. We knew if we lost another game we would be done.
“What we’ve done right to get here starts with defense, lock-down defense. We’ve also taken care of the ball and made free throws down the stretch to steal victories.”
But now the Lakers will face their biggest challenge to date. Godwin Heights has won 15 straight games this season and is 70-5 over the past three seasons.
The Wolverines put their scoring prowess on display in the regional finals, pounding Charlotte 81-37. They are led offensively by Delaney Blaylock, who averages 17.3 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.
Spring Lake only trailed Godwin Heights by two points with two minutes to go in last year’s regional finals, before falling 63-50. Earlier in the season the Lakers lost to the Wolverines by 15 points.
“Last year they were undefeated when we played them, so this should be an easier game since they have lost once,” Core said with a chuckle.
“We had one bad quarter in each game against them. We need to limit their big quarter runs. The game is going to be decided by whether we take care of the ball, have low turnovers and break their press.”