Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
For the better part of the first half, it looked like the Bay Rockets were the team out in front in the West Shore Conference race.
The home team raced out to a 10-0 first quarter lead and held a 17-11 advantage early in the second against the first-place Lakewood Rangers. The visitors were struggling offensively, while the Rockets were enjoying one of their best starts of the season.
But as the second quarter moved along, the Lakewood offense awoke from its slumber and went to work.
The Rangers closed out the half with an impressive 16-3 run and carried that momentum into the second half. When it was all said and done, Lakewood prevailed 66-38 to remain all alone at the top of the WSC girls basketball standings.
Lakewood, now 12-3 overall and 8-1 in the conference, shot a blazing 63 percent in the second half after making just three of 14 shots in the first quarter.
Bay, at 3-12 and 1-8, saw its season-long shooting woes continue. The Rockets shot a red-hot five of nine in the first quarter, but shot at a 27 percent clip the rest of the way.
"The big thing is we get a lot of open shots, we just haven't been able to knock them down," said first-year Bay head coach Brian Hill.
"It's the same problem we've had in our other games. Our shooting percentage is really low. We've just got to keep getting on the basketball court and working at it," he said.
The Rockets worked their way to a 10-0 lead, starting with back-to-back 3-pointers from freshman Maddie Homes and senior Rachel Jerome. A pair of free throws from sophomore Nora Ziebarth and a drive for two down the lane from junior Aubrey Rohlke and Bay rolling early.
Meanwhile, the Rangers were having their problems agains the Rockets' zone defense. But midway through the second quarter, Lakewood's offense began to click.
Junior guard Taylor Shaw scored inside, then senior guard Maggie Rowell got a steal for her first basket of the game. Prior to that, the Rangers' 5-3 point guard had struggled with her outside shot.
Another score by Shaw drew the Rangers even at 17-17. Soon after, a 3-pointer from senior Erin Hoffert put the Rangers on top for the first time in the game at 20-17.
A baseline jumper from 5-11 junior Madison Clause made it 22-17 before the Rockets could score again. Holmes hit another 3-pointer for Bay, but the Rangers closed out the half on a Megan Barrett bucket inside and a 3-pointer from Clause to make it 27-20, Rangers, at the half.
"We figured they would come out in a zone tonight," said Lakewood head coach Mike Harper. "Our zone offense is something that we've worked hard on.
"My post players did a really nice job in passing the pass. They had that high-low game working very well. Props to Bay on a strong start. But once we settled down a title bit, I thought we did a great job.
"Some of the shots we had early on were good shots, they just weren't falling. Like with Maggie Rowell: those are her shots and she usually hits them. When your leader's not hitting, I think everybody else gets on edge a little bit.
"But I was really pleased with the way we came out in that third quarter," he added.
The Rangers opened that quarter with a 13-4 run to push the lead out to 40-24. Freshman Ryann Greenfield hit a rebound for two, then Rowell drove the baseline and hit one of her floating jumpers.
A 3-pointer from Greenfield, a bucket inside by senior Tori Milicevic and a pair of scores from Shaw forced Bay to call a timeout with 3:04 left in the quarter.
The Rockets came back with a pair of free throws from Jerome and a baseline junmper from senior Ellen Hanna. to get back to within 12 points at 40-28. But another Milicevic trey and a fast break hoop by Hoffert nudged the Ranger lead back out to 17.
Lakewood put the game away in the fourth with a 12-1 run that was sparked by a pair of Rowell steals and two scores from Barrett. A Clause score inside on an inbounds play made it 63-36, Lakewood, with just over two minutes left in the game.
Leading the way for the Rangers was Milicevic, who came off the bench for 11 points and six rebounds, five of those coming in the second half.
"Tori was big on the boards tonight, and she's deceptive," said Harper of his 5-11 senior. "People see her as a post player, and then when she goes out to the perimeter people tend to forget about her a little bit. She'll hurt you out there," he said.
Rowell shook off her slow start to score 10 points, with Shaw adding 10 as well. Clause had nine points and eight rebounds, while Barrett chipped in with nine points.
"That's what we do," said Harper of his team's scoring balance.
"On any given night, any of our top six or seven can jump up and get you. That's what we did all last year. I don't think we're predicated on any one player carrying the load. I'm very pleased with that," he said.
Holmes led Bay with 10 points, while Jerome and sophomore Lauren Heldt added seven and six points, respectively. But despite his team's problems on offense, Hill felt his team made some progress.
"I'm definitely proud of the way our girls played, especially in the first half and taking that early lead," Hill said.
"Even when they went on that big run in the second quarter, we still battled with therm all the way. And I've got to give it to their kids, They've got so many weapons, and we knew they were going to come alive soon enough.
"Unfortunately, they outscored us in the second half, but I still thought we hung with them. Even when we were down 15-20 points, our girls were diving on the floor for loose balls and still working hard on the defensive end.
"We've got a freshman and two sophomores that we start, and we play probably 10-12 girls a game. If we continue to keep developing like this, we'll start to put it together," he added.
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