By Greg Gielczyk

MUSKEGON — Defense is always good to have, because offense can sometimes be a little flighty.

Ludington’s boys basketball team enjoyed both Friday night when the Orioles used a tremendous second quarter defense to shut down a hot Western Michigan Christian team and took a big 83-66 win in the Lakes 8 Conference Friday night.

It was an especially impressive performance by the Orioles since it came on the Warriors home court, where they can be particularly difficult to stop.

“We function well in that kind of environment,” Ludington head coach Thad Shank said. “We made a decision a little bit to just after it knowing that he (Owen Vernado) was going to be put in a lot of scoring situations, but we wanted to make the pace a chaotic one, and I think we kind of wore then down in spots in the game where we had runs that put us in a position to win tonight.

“I thought we played really, really hard. I think we created a good amount of points from our defense. And we have to do that. We are at our best when we’re playing 94 feet, and we’re trapping people, creating steals and turnovers, and going the other way.

“There were definitely breakdowns, but we forced the type of tempo and type of game that we wanted to play.”

The Warriors grabbed a 20-18 edge at the end of the first quarter as Owen Varnado went off for 16 points in the first eight minutes of the contest.
But then the Warriors went cold against the tenacious Oriole defense in the second period and were outscored, 21-7 as Ludington went into the half with a 39-27 lead.

Ludington kept up the offensive fireworks in the third quarter, outscoring the Warriors, 19-13 and extended its lead to 18 points, 58-40 going into the fourth quarter.

WMC came back to outscore the Orioles, 26-23 in the final eight minutes, but couldn’t get any closer to Ludington down the stretch.

“I thought we shared the ball as well as we’ve shared it all year long,” Shank said. “You’re always looking for that balance of playing aggressively, but also sharing the ball.

“That’s a hard balance, I think to find sometimes at any level. I thought we did a pretty good job of being aggressive tonight, but making the extra pass as well.”

Peyton LaCombe paced the Orioles with 25 points, followed by David Shillinger with 18, while Dylan Eaton and Gage Jones each scored 10.

Varnado finished with a game-high 37 points for the Warriors, including a 13 of 14 performance at the free throw line. Wesley Olsen contributed 13.
The Orioles raised their record to 7-5 overall and 6-1 in the Lakes 8 with the win. Ludington’s next game is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 2 at Manistee.

Western Michigan Christian is now 2-6 overall and 2-3 in the conference. The Warriors are next scheduled to play at Grandville Calvin Christian on Tuesday, Feb. 1.