By Justin Haggerty
SPRING LAKE – The Spring Lake boy’s basketball team beat Montague earlier this season by 22 points.
So nobody expected a repeat when the two teams met again on Monday in the first round of the Class B district tournament at Spring Lake High School.
But the Lakers dominated again, jumping out to a quick lead and rambling to a 71-35 victory over the Wildcats.+
Spring Lake, now 15-6 on the season, will host Oakridge on Wednesday in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m.
Montague finished the season with a 17-4 mark.
“I never expected for this to happen,” said Spring Lake head coach Bill Core. “That’s a good team we beat. It may be difficult to convince some people that haven’t been following Montague, but (head coach) Dave (Osbourne) does a good job, and that’s a good team we beat tonight, and I’m tickled.”
Spring Lake’s scoring was balanced, with 11 players putting points and only one – junior Jack VanWingen – in double digits with 14 points.
Neither team shot well early. The score was just 4-2 midway through the first quarter, but Spring Lake took control when VanWingen scored eight points in the final 2:40.
The Lakers led 16-8 lead after one.
The Laker defense stepped up in the second, shutting the visitors out for the first 4:37. They held the Wildcats to just six points in the quarter, with just one field goal. Montague shot just 20 percent in the first half.
Spring Lake led 29-14 at halftime.
Laker defenders were particularly effective against Montague standout Merritt Hamman, who was held scoreless for the game.
“Offensively we were pretty good, but our defense and rebounding were the key tonight,” Core said. “One of our keys to victory was to defend (Merritt) Hamann and (Josh) Weesies.
“Weesies was a beast in there (22 points). We didn’t do as well on him as we would have liked, but to be able to shut one of them down was important.”
The third quarter was a shootout, with Spring Lake outscoring Montague 23-15. Weesies scored 10 points in the quarter for the Wildcats.
“That’s what Josh has done for us all year, he’s kept us in a lot of games,” Osbourne said. “He’s kept us in games until we could start to hit some outside shots, and it just never seemed to come tonight.”
Down 52-29 entering the fourth quarter, the Wildcats grew frustrated and sent the Lakers to the free throw line 14 times down the stretch, with Spring Lake hitting seven.
Eight Lakers scored in the fourth quarter.
“I’m not surprised by the outcome, but I’m surprised by the final score, and the fact we couldn’t put it in the bucket at all. But I attribute their defense to that, too,” Osbourne said.