By Dave Tomczak

HOLLAND – The Reeths-Puffer girls basketball team’s dream season came to a halt in the Division 1 regional semifinals on Tuesday.

Making their first regional appearance since 2005, the Rockets struggled on offense, and fell to fourth-ranked East Grand Rapids 49-35 at West Ottawa High School.

Lauren Ross goes drives to the basket for Reeths-Puffer. Photo/Joe Lane

Reeths-Puffer finished the season with a 21-3 record.

R-P coach Rodney Walker knew it was important for his team to get off to a good start, but neither team found its offense early.

“If we were going to have an advantage, I thought we would take the advantage in the first quarter,” said Walker, whose team trailed 5-4 after a very quiet first quarter. “Our strategy was to get out to a fast start and put the pressure on them to make shots.”

Reeths-Puffer standout Lauren Ross was held scoreless in the opening quarter, with the Pioneers double-teaming her whenever she touched the ball.

The senior guard finally hit her first bucket midway through the second quarter, and her two free throws with 1:03 left in the half tied the game at 13-13.

East Grand Rapids sisters Macy Brown and Jillian Brown responded by scoring the next six points to give EGR a 19-13 halftime lead.

The Pioneers extended the lead to 24-13 early in the third quarter.

Ross moved her game into the post and scored nine of the Rockets’ 12 third quarter points down low, but R-P still trailed 34-25 headed into the fourth.

“They built a nice lead and we could never get a run going,” Walker said. “Normally, we can always get a run going. You have to credit them with their defensive scheme, it disrupted everything we tried to do.”

R-P narrowed its deficit to 40-32 on Ariel Walkers’ 3-pointer with 2:53 remaining, but got no closer, and ended up being outscored 15-10 in the final quarter.

The Rockets didn’t help themselves at the free throw line, making only 5 of 15 attempts, while the Pioneers made 9 of 10.

Despite the loss, Walker had high praise for his team.

“We were able to get this far due to the commitment of the girls on this team – commitment to the process, and I’m so happy and impressed with them,” the coach said.

Ross led the Rockets in her final varsity game with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Walker added eight points and Sophia Hekkema added seven.

Macy Brown led EGR with 15 points and Jillian Brown had 14.