By Dave Hart
MUSKEGON – The West Michigan Lake Hawks were short three players on Sunday evening, yet almost found a way to win against a much taller opposing team.
The Lake Hawks fell behind early and trailed until late in the third quarter. They led for parts of the fourth quarter before falling behind with 17 seconds remaining in regulation.
Down by three points with 1.4 second remaining, Arien McDaniel caught an inbound pass from the right corner and hurled the potential game-tying shot. But the ball rang off the rim and the Lake Hawks dropped a close, physical contest 106-103 to the Ohio Kings at Muskegon High School.
“We had a lot of tenacity out here today defensively,” said Lake Hawks coach Ron Jenkins. “And we had heart and that is what we wanted, and we knew that we were short-handed. What we wanted to do is compete and that is what we did.”
The Lake Hawks are now 11-4 on the season, which is good for second place in the ABA’s North Central Division with just six games remaining in the regular season.
West Michigan, which will travel to face The New Chicago Fury in its next game on Saturday, has already qualified for the postseason, which starts on March 28 in Cassopolis, Michigan with ABA regional play.
The Lake Hawks defeated Ohio 94-84 in their last meeting on Dec. 21, but had their full roster available. West Michigan played with just seven players on Sunday due to sickness, and it made a difference.
West Michigan was led by Arien McDaniel with 26 points, while Terry Walker added 25.
The Lake Hawks opened the game with a two-point basket by Will Roberson Jr., but then allowed 11 straight points by the Kings.
The Lake Hawks tied the game 21-21 with 3:07 left in the opening quarter, but allowed Ohio to close the quarter with a 10-5 run and trailed 31-26 at the first buzzer.
Roberson, Marquis Brewer and Deontae Hudson each scored seven points for West Michigan in the first quarter.
The Lake Hawks trailed during the entire second quarter, cutting the deficit to as low as a point at 44-43 with 4:37 remaining in the half. They trailed 58-53 at halftime. Walker scored 10 second quarter points for the Lake Hawks, while McDaniel had eight.
The Lake Hawks finally took the lead 75-74 with 1:53 left in the third quarter, but Ohio scored the last three points and led 77-75 heading into the fourth. Walker scored seven points in the third quarter, while Roberson had six.
The Lake Hawks led by as many as five points four different times during the fourth quarter, including a 97-92 lead with 4:46 remaining in the game. But the Kings tied it 98-98 with three minutes left and closed out the game with an 8-5 run.
McDaniel exploded for 15 fourth quarter points, while Ralph Monday had five, but it wasn’t quite enough to steal the victory.
The Kings were led by Rachaun Thompson with 25 points, while Dwayne Bazemore added 18.