By Mitchell Boatman
SPRING LAKE – Close basketball games are often decided at the free-throw line.
The Broncos made 25 of 30 from the line, including 14 of 18 in the fourth quarter, to hold off the Lakers 61-52.
The Lakers trailed by as many as 13 points early in the fourth quarter, but trimmed their deficit to 50-45 on a three-point-play from Cameron Ball with 1:45 to play.
That’s as close as the Lakers could get. Coopersville converted 11 of 14 free throws in the waning moments of the game to seal the victory.
Spring Lake head coach Bill Core was well aware of the Broncos’ ability at the foul line.
“From watching them on tape, I knew they were a pretty good free-throw shooting team,” Core said. “They went to kind of a spread offense at the four-minute mark and forced our hand (to foul).
“They really know how to close out a game.”
Spring Lake fell to 7-3 on the season and 2-2 in the O-K Blue. Coopersville improved to 6-3 and 3-1.
The Lakers now sit in third place in their inaugural season in the OK-Blue, a conference that, according to Core, is a challenge every night.
“The biggest difference between the Lakes 8 (Spring Lake’s former conference) and this is the bottom-tier teams,” he said. “The bottom tier teams can beat the top on any given night, any place. It doesn’t matter.”
Despite the fierce competition in the league and the Lakers’ 2-2 start, Core still likes their chances.
“Even though we lost tonight, in a 12-game season we’re going to win our share of games,” he said.
Spring Lake opened the game strong, taking a 12-10 lead after the first quarter. But the Broncos came out firing in the second quarter.
They opened with a three-pointer from Nick Dekkenga to pull ahead. A basket from Jack VanWingen briefly put Spring Lake back on top, but that was the last Laker lead.
A Dekkenga layup, followed by back-to-back threes from Nicholas Lundquist and Connor Hilton, gave Coopersville an 11-2 run and 21-14 lead.
The Broncos outscored Spring Lake 17-8 in the second quarter and led 27-20 at halftime.
Spring Lake closed its deficit to four points in the third quarter, but Coopersville ended the quarter on an 11-3 run – with nine points coming at the foul line – to extend the lead to 41-29 at the buzzer.
Spring Lake threatened several times in the fourth quarter, but never got closer than five points.
“Coopersville deserves a lot of credit,” Core said. “We kept battling but we could never get over that hump. We’d be down 10 or 11 and get it down to six, but they would always seem to respond and make a play.”
Coopersville outrebounded the Lakers 31-23. It was the first time in 10 games that Spring Lake has been beaten on the boards.
Dekkenga led all scorers with 26 points, including 10 on free throws. Chase VanKempen added 14 for Coopersville while Riley Johnson scored seven.
Cameron Ball had 19 points to lead Spring Lake. He scored 11 of those points in the fourth quarter, despite playing with four fouls for the final six minutes.
VanWingen added 15 points for the Lakers while Craig Whittaker had seven points off the bench.