Spring Lake gets another tough test in the O-K Blue, but sneaks past Allendale

By Nate Thompson

SPRING LAKE – Competing in the tough O-K Blue Conference has been a double-edged sword for the Spring Lake boys basketball team.

The quality of the league, top-to-bottom, has prepared the Lakers for the fierce battles of the postseason tournament, including last year when they made a surprising run to the Class B state quarterfinals.

But during the regular season, Spring Lake can’t afford to relax against any conference opponent.

Allendale, a squad that is just 2-12 overall and has one league victory, demonstrated that again on Friday at Spring Lake High School.

The underdog Falcons gave the Lakers a battle until the fourth quarter, when the hosts converted 13 of 14 free throws to clinch a 63-56 victory.

Spring Lake’s Sam Johnson looks up court after pulling down the rebound. Photo/Leo Valdez

Spring Lake is now to 13-3 overall, and remains tied with Coopersville for second place in the O-K Blue with a 7-2 mark. Both teams are chasing state-ranked Grand Rapids Catholic Central, which is undefeated in league play.

Spring Lake Coach Bill Core commended the relentless Allendale squad, which trailed by 10 points midway through the third quarter, and again with three minutes left in the game, but battled back both times.

“(Allendale head coach) Joe Modderman said that was by far the best they’ve played,” Core said. “It’s not like we played bad. They just played really, really, really well.

“I said at the break that defense, rebounding and making free throws was going to make the difference down the stretch,” he added. “Our defense was OK. Our rebounding was just OK. But our free throw shooting was very good.”

The Lakers had a 16-11 lead after one quarter and extended their advantage to 32-25 at the half. Senior wing Jack VanWingen provided the spark, scoring all 10 of his points in the first half.

Spring Lake’s offensive philosophy changed after the break. The Lakers decided to take advantage of Allendale’s post players, who were in foul trouble by the second half.

Sam Johnson, Spring Lake’s 6-foot-8 post player, flourished in that situation, turning in one of his best all-around games of the season with a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds.

“My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball,” Johnson said. “I just tried to stay aggressive and get block position when I could. We had some outside shooters early so they couldn’t sag off. Then we had some cuts from the wing (for scores) when they started to double down. So it was a good team victory.”

Allendale had 6-0 run to end the third quarter and trailed 44-40 at the buzzer. But Johnson scored in the paint to open the fourth, then a tough reverse layup by Griffin Lorimer gave the Lakers a 49-42 advantage with under five minutes to play.

Lorimer fouled out later in the quarter and finished with nine points.

Allendale cut its deficit back down to six, 51-45, with four minutes to go, but the Lakers made all 10 of their free throws attempts down the stretch.

“They had an answer for everything and we could never put them away,” Core said. “You know, that’s how upsets occur. Fortunately, our free throws were good enough to pull it out.”

Sophomore Bryce Nyboer led a balanced Falcons scoring effort with 14 points, while 6-8 sophomore Ryan Cormer added 11.

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