By Greg Gielczyk
The plan is always to get off to a quick start, and set the tempo for the rest of the game, with a tenacious pressure defense causing all kinds of havoc for the opposing team’s offense.
Which is exactly what the Ludington girls basketball team did in dispatching an overmatched Reed City squad, 36-15, in a Division 2 district semifinal at Ludington’s Hawley Gym.
Reed City enjoyed some success defensively, making things difficult for the Orioles at times in the first half.
“It’s hard when we see zone (defense) that’s packed in,” said Orioles coach Warren Stowe. “They (the Coyotes) did a good job of not just sitting in the lane, you see that all the time, but they kind of matched up with Keelyn (Laird) and RyAnn (Rohrer).
“So we had to work really hard, and they did. We found ways to get some open shots in the second half, especially that first four minutes.
“I think the girls made some good adjustments, and got some layups, which was nice to see.”
Laird, a junior, muscles inside for a bucket and then returned an offensive rebound for a putback that helped trigger a 6-0 outburst by the Orioles with 5:17 left in the opening quarter.
Reed City scored coming out of a time out, but the Orioles scored five more points before the buzzer, including a 3-point bomb by Emma McKinley to mount an 11-2 lead after one.
The Coyotes closed the gap to 11-6 early in the second period before Karli Mesyar knocked down a 3-point shot to end the Orioles scoreless spell.
Ludington couldn’t shake the Coyotes, though, as they kept it a single digit game at 14-8 late in the second period. But then Laird swept down the middle and rolled in a floater in front of the basket.
Rylee Stone rattled home a 3-pointer as the Orioles outscored the Coyotes, 10-6 in the second and soared into the half with a 21-8 lead.
After the Coyotes scored first to start the third quarter, the Orioles defense held them scoreless the rest of the way and went on an 11-0 run and boosted their lead to 32-10 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Orioles started the fourth period with a 3-point bucket by senior Abi Bandstra. Reed City would finish the final eight minutes with a 5-4 edge.
“After we had talked pre-game I could tell there were some nerves, but they went away after we talked,” Stowe said. “Then you just play, and you let that stuff all go. I was proud of them.
“(Defensively) we just try to be who we are. We don’t run a ton of stuff, but we switch stuff a lot and we’re always pressuring the ball.
“I feel for some of those Reed City girls, because it is not fun having Rylee Stone, Abi Bandstra and RyAnn Rohrer guard you. Ball pressure is really important to us because it puts them at such a disadvantage.
“A lot of times we got girls with their backs to the basket. That’s good for us defensively.”
Rohrer finished as the Orioles’ leading scorer with nine points, while Stone added eight and Bandstra five.
The Orioles extended their winning streak to three consecutive games, and improved to 16-5.
Ludington will next play Big Rapids, which defeated Cadillac, 54-21 in the other semifinal Wednesday, in the championship game Friday at 7 p.m.
Check out photos from the action shot by John Morin.