January 18, 2012 - By Joe St. Henry
Two close games and two tough losses last week dropped the Lake Orion girls' basketball team from the ranks of the undefeated in the OAA White division.
The losses also put the Lady Dragons two games behind Rochester Adams in the fight for the league title.
"We've got to step up at crunch time in close games," said Head Coach Steve Roberts. "We had two leads in the fourth quarter and let the games get away from us.
On January 10, Lake Orion hosted Farmington, the preseason favorite to win the OAA White crown. The home team opened up a 6-0 lead before the Falcon outside shooters took over with 12 straight points, including two three-pointers, to end the quarter.
"I didn't think we were playing with a lot of energy," Roberts said. "We weren't covering the outside like we normally do. You just can't let them sit back and shoot like that."
Lake Orion substituations provided a spark of energy, but the team was still down by ten points with a minute to go in the half. A three-point play cut the lead to seven at the break.
The Lady Dragons rode the momentum into the third quarter. A 10-2 run, fueled by a press defense and timely Farmington charging calls, enabled Lake Orion to tie the game at 23. A basket by leading scorer Marissa Secontine (15 points) actually put the home team up by one, 27-26. Lake Orion ouscored Farmington 16-6 during the quarter.
The momentum quickly changed, however, when the Falcons found their three-point shooting touch to start the last quarter, hitting two long shots than spurred an 11-0 run. Farmington hit free throws down the stretch and won the game, 39-33.
"You spend a lot of energy when you come back like that," Roberts said. "I think our short bench caught up with us in the fourth quarter."
Farmington shot 48 percent from the field; Lake Orion 32 percent.
Two nights later, the Lady Dragons traveled to Farmington Hills Harrison to play the Hawks, in what was expected to be another competitive contest.
Lake Orion lead 12-7 after the first quarter and was up by three points at the break. The team played well on defense, but had 25 turnovers during the game. Still, the Lady Dragons were up by three with a minute left thanks to a Secontine three-pointer. Harrison fouled to stop the clock but, unfortunately, Lake Orion could not convert the free throws.
Lake Orion turned the ball over with five seconds to go and a one-point lead. Harrison missed its last second shot but, unbelievably, the referee called a foul on the Dragons. The Hawks' shooter made one of two free throws to tie the game at 25 and send it into overtime.
Harrison rode the momentum with a 5-0 spurt to start the extra period and ended up outscoring Lake Orion 15-4 in the period, including key free throws, to win 40-29.
"They made timely baskets and we didn't," Roberts said. "Our girls have to fight and match the other teams' intensity at the end of the games."
The head coach said the team will eventually learn to protect leads, with his younger and less experienced players slowly adjusting to varsity-level competition.
"They're learning that there's a big difference in playing junior varsity and moving up to varsity," Roberts said. "Hannah (Hamay) never played JV - she was in eighth grade last year. Nicole (Krier) played a couple games on varsity last year, but not many."
Roberts was quick to point out injuries to a number of senior players have really "cracked" the team, but it has been competitive in a league where the margin between winning and losing is small.
"We're 5-4 (3-2 OAA White) and, considering the circumstances, that's not bad," he said.
Lake Orion played a non-league game against Brandon on Monday in the annual Coaches vs. Cancer contest. The Lady Dragons rose to the occasion and posted a 43-28 win. The team travels to Rochester Adams on Thursday, hoping to cut the Highlanders' league lead to one game.
"That's a big game for us if we want to stay in contention, no doubt about it," Roberts said. "We need the win and then hope somebody else knocks 'em off."