By Andrew Johnson
MUSKEGON – There’s nothing like a victory in the last game before the playoffs.
The victory gave the Lake Hawks, now 14-6, home court advantage for the ABA’s North-Central Division championship game on March 20 against an undetermined opponent.
If the Lake Hawks win that game, they will advance to the ABA Final Playoffs in Laredo, Texas, with a chance to play for the league title.
Lake Hawks Coach Ron Jenkins thought it was important for his team to gain momentum for the playoff stretch by beating Grand Rapids on Sunday. He also wanted to show the Danger that if they happen to be the opponent in the division title game, the Lake Hawks will be ready.
“Winning today gives us the momentum,” Jenkins said. “We talked about (Grand Rapids) having helium in their balloon and how we wanted to deflate it today. We know that we can beat them and we showed them we can beat them.”
Things started out well for the Lake Hawks, who grabbed a quick 9-3 lead behind five points from Louis Williams.
Grand Rapids responded with a 15-6 run and led 29-14 after one quarter.
The two teams were even for most of the second quarter before West Michigan went on a 15-6 run to take a 59-48 halftime lead. The outburst was fueled by seven points from Aaron Davis and six points from Josh Langford.
In the third quarter, it looked like the Lake Hawks might run away from the Danger when their lead expanded to 16 points. But Grand Rapids fought back once again with a 17-5 run and led 80-77 after three.
The game stayed close for most of the fourth quarter with neither team gaining an edge.
The Lake Hawks took a time out with 1:58 remaining and the game tied 99-99. Then they went on a late 7-2 run that included a physical driving layup from Davis with 18.4 seconds left, giving West Michigan a 104-101 lead.
DaunTrel Hill had a chance to tie the game for Grand Rapids with seven seconds, but missed a three- pointer from the top of the right key. The rebound wound up in the hands of Lake Hawk Terry Walker, who was fouled and clinched the victory with two free throws.
Davis led all scorers with 28 points.
“I have to give credit to my team first and foremost,” Davis said after the game. “At the end of the day I wanted to take the ball myself to either win or lose the game.”
Langford added 23 points and seven rebounds for the Lake Hawks, while Williams finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists.
Matt Stoll led Grand Rapids with 22 points while Aaron Carter had 21.