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New-look Spring Lake boys basketball team surges past Muskegon Heights

Josh VanDyke • Dec 4, 2018 at 11:00 PM

The Spring Lake boys basketball team entered Tuesday night's season opener at Muskegon Heights Academy with a lot of unknowns.

The new-look Lakers answered most of those concerns with a 60-50 road win over the Tigers, thanks to a 40-point barrage in the second half.

Junior forward Lucas Lyyski kicked off his varsity career with 17 points and 10 rebounds, including a thunderous dunk in the fourth quarter that pushed the Lakers' lead to 13 points and all but sealed the win.

Senior wing Sam Negen added 12 points, while junior point guard Cayden Ball had nine. Senior guard Kyle Wiersma also added seven points, while junior forward Zach Keyser added five points and seven rebounds.

The Lakers held a narrow two-point lead over Muskegon Heights in the first quarter (14-12) and at halftime (20-18), but pulled away in the second half thanks to improved defensive rebounding and better ball control.

"I thought we played much better in the second half," said Spring Lake head coach Bill Core. "We talked at halftime about getting to the free throw line more, limiting turnovers and getting them off the offensive glass. I thought we did a much better job in all three of those phases in the second half, and that's probably a big reason why we were able to pull away."

The Tigers deployed a run-and-shoot offensive approach, as they attempted 31 three-point attempts in the game, but only converted on five shots.

"We spent a lot of time boxing out the last two practices," said Core. "They are an athletic team and when you miss that many shots, there's going to be a lot of opportunities for offensive rebounds. We knew we had to get a body on everyone and make sure we didn't give them too many second and third looks at the basket, because that's how you get beat."

Despite fielding a relatively inexperienced roster, Core thought the cool, collected play of some of his veterans made the difference in the face of a pressing team that normally feasts off of opponents' mistakes.

"We grew up a lot tonight," he said ."Cayden Ball, Sam Negen and Kyle Wiersma played composed and got the ball where it needed to go and got to the free throw line a lot, too. We were a little worried about how this game might go, because they have a lot of returners, they have already played a game, and they were playing at home, so it felt like we were down 10 or 12 points when we walked off the bus. But, it was really our guys with varsity experience that slowed things down against their pressure and made the smart plays with the basketball.

"We had 17 turnovers in the first half and only four in the second, so that stat alone shows you how important it was for us to take care of the basketball."

Nine of 12 players on the roster scored in Tuesday's game, showcasing what could turn into a balanced scoring attacking for the Lakers this year.

"We got to play a lot of guys tonight and nine guys got in the scoring column," Core said. "Zach Keyser scored our first five points of the game, and was active on the boards, Zach Foster had a few big plays on offense and defense and Sam Sheridan made a lot of little plays that don't show up on the stat sheet, but they were important in the grand scheme of things.

"We have to grow up fast, but I like these guys. To win on the road in the first game of the year is a great achievement. Muskegon Heights is a proud program, and we knew this wasn't going to be easy, so we're happy to come out with a win."

UP NEXT

The Lakers will have a loaded schedule the next two weeks, as they host rival Fruitport on Friday, and follow that up with a non-conference road clash at Rockford on Dec. 11 and cap off the stretch by hosting Grand Haven for the annual Drawbridge Classic.

"Coach (Steve) Erny does a great job over at Fruitport, and they got hot from outside in their opener. They picked up a road win against Whitehall tonight, too, so they'll have a lot of confidence heading into Friday night's game. They do a lot of good things, and they can be dangerous if you don't contest their shots.

"We're going to really have to learn on the fly these next two weeks, but we're excited about the potential of this team. Tonight was a positive step for us, and we'll get back to work tomorrow and get ready for another big test."

Junior varsity: Spring Lake defeated Muskegon Heights Academy, 51-46 in overtime. Jaron Little led the Lakers with 19 points, including a buzzer-beater to send the game into overtime, while Callum Saxe added 17 points.

Freshmen: Spring Lake defeated Muskegon Heights Academy, 62-35. Porter Saunders led the Lakers with 14 points, while Evan McDermott and Nino Padula both added 11. Jackson Core led the team with four assists, while Dylan Lisman led the team in rebounds with seven.

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