Reiko Johnson heats up, Spring Lake rallies past Whitehall in Class B districts

By Jacob Arvidson

MONTAGUE – The Spring Lake girls basketball team has been counting on Reiko Johnson for big baskets at key times for several years now.

Monday was no exception.

The Lakers found themselves in a battle with Whitehall for 3 ½ quarters in the opening game of the Class B district tournament, before pulling away for a 51-40 victory at Montague High School.

Spring Lake senior leader Reiko Johnson talks with teammates Madeline Zenas and No. 10 Jenna Core. Photo/Leo Valdez

Johnson was the x-factor for the Lakers, hitting seven 3-pointers at crucial moments, when Spring Lake needed a spark.

“I tried driving and my floaters weren’t falling, but my 3’s were,” said Johnson, who scored a game-high 25 points. “I thought, if my 3’s are falling, I might as well take the shot I’m most confident in right now.”

Spring Lake, now 15-6, advances to the district semifinals against Orchard View on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The winner will advance to Friday’s championship game.

Whitehall finished the season with an 11-10 record.

Johnson’s 3-pointer on the game’s first possession looked like it might set the tone for an easy Spring Lake victory, but that didn’t happen.

The Vikings responded with a 14-0 run and led 14-3 at the end of the first quarter. The run continued into the second quarter, with Whitehall pulling ahead 18-3.

“We just sometimes don’t come to play in the first quarter,” said Spring Lake head coach Cavin Mohrhardt. “I’ve seen it happen before to us, so it wasn’t totally shocking. I knew we weren’t out of the game, and so did the girls. That was the big thing. We didn’t panic.”

Spring Lake slowly began to reel Whitehall in.

Whitehall forward Julie Brown fights her way through the Spring Lake defense. Photo/Leo Valdez

Mohrhardt signaled for a full-court press defense early in the second quarter, a move that forced numerous Viking turnovers and ultimately sparked Spring Lake’s comeback.

Johnson hit two 3s and Emily Batts put in two layups as the Lakers went on a 10-0 run and cut their deficit to 21-15 at halftime.

“Our press really hurt them,” Mohrhardt said. “We didn’t make all of our layups, that would have helped us get back in the game a little quicker, but we didn’t panic. We just kept pressing and we kept putting it on them.”

Whitehall’s lead continued to shrink in the third quarter. Johnson hit two more 3’s and Jenna Core made a triple and two layups to cut Whitehall’s lead to 31-30.

Spring Lake finally pulled ahead almost halfway through the fourth quarter. Madelyn Nelson’s shot from behind the arc tied the game 33-33, then Johnson’s 3-pointer on the following possession put the Lakers on top.

“When I hit that three I knew the win was solidified at that point,” Johnson said.

Whitehall’s Julie Brown did everything possible to keep the Vikings close, scoring nine points in the fourth quarter, but Spring Lake did not slow down.

The Lakers extended their lead to as much as 13 points in the final two minutes as Whitehall’s offense fizzled out.

Brown paced the Vikings with 14 points and 14 rebounds while Rebekah VanDeWeg added 10 points.


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