February 29, 2012 - By Joe St. Henry
Senior Marisa Secontine attepts a shot against Rochester Adams. Photo by J. St. Henry (click for larger version)
Special Writer for The Review
An excruciating fourth quarter scoring drought against Rochester Adams on Feb. 21 killed Lake Orion's dream of an OAA White girls' basketball title, but the Lady Dragons enjoyed a little revenge themselves last Friday by shooting better and knocking off Oxford on the road.
The win against the Wildcats capped a 14-6 regular season for Lake Orion, including a 10-4 division record and second place finish behind the Highlanders.
"I can't explain it," said Head Coach Steve Roberts. "It happens in all sports at all levels. Some nights your offense is just flowing and other nights it struggles. When you're more tense, you're less likely to score. Then you hit a big shot or two and the basket just gets bigger."
Lake Orion needed a win at home against league leader Adams to gain a share of first place. Unfortunately, the Lady Dragons started customarily slow on offense and fell behind 10-5 after the first quarter.
The home team came back in the second and tied the game at ten, however, when senior Laura Turnbull hit a three-point shot with five minutes left in the half. Two more consecutive long-range bombs by senior Marisa Secontine and sophomore Nicole Krier put Adams on their heels. Lake Orion's defense held the Highlanders to only two points during the quarter.
The Lady Dragons' momentum was quelled somewhat when they failed to score during their last possession of the half, after running more than two –and-a-half minutes off the clock. But they still led 16-12 at the break.
The second half was a different story. Adams found its scoring touch and began the quarter by hitting three triples during an 11-4 run in the third quarter. Secontine's own three-point shot tied the game at 23, however, to stem the Highlanders' momentum, if only for a moment.
The game turned for the worse for Lake Orion during the final quarter, when the Lady Dragons were held scoreless for nearly six minutes to end the game. In fact, the home team shot a miserable 3-21 overall in the second half, while Adams shot more than 50 percent. Both Secontine and Krier finished with nine points for Lake Orion in the loss.
"That was the game," Roberts said of the 38-25 defeat. "When you don't knock down your shots and the other team does like that, it's hard to win."
Lake Orion had to regroup on Feb. 24, hoping to avenge an earlier home loss to Oxford.
It was a physical game from the opening tipoff, according to the head coach, with Lake Orion playing "stingy" defense and managing to go up 7-0 after the first quarter. The visitors actually opened with a 12-2 run.
In fact, the Wildcats did not score a point in front of their home crowd until five minutes left in the half. At the break, the Lady Dragons were winning 19-9.
As she has done all season, Secontine hit two key three pointers to start the sec ond half that put Lake Orion up by 16 in the third quarter, which ended 31-17.
"When you make baskets, your defense and rebounding picks up too," the coach said.
Oxford's pressure defense and desperate play to catch up enabled the Wildcats to close the gap some in the fourth quarter. Lake Orion finished with 28 turnovers, Oxford 20.
"The game got more physical as Oxford fell more behind and it showed," Roberts said. "But our girls played tough and did not back down." (Krier and junior Emilie Kipp had bruises on their faces to show for it.)
Lake Orion turned a total of 18 Wildcat fouls into 12 points at the free throw line. Lake Orion's players committed 12 fouls of their own. Secontine finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, while freshman Hannah Hamay scored 14 points, including a key basket and free throw down the stretch to seal the victory, 39-34.
"We took care of the ball when we had to and hit our free throws in a close game," said Roberts, who noted the team played in many very close contests during the season.
The season-ending win gave the girls' team momentum going into the state playoffs. Lake Orion opened district play against Rochester, a team it has beaten twice this season, on Monday night.
"I've been very pleased with the regular season," Roberts said. "We competed for the league championship after losing several of our key returning players. Our other girls stepped up."
The coach warned, however, that the playoffs are a whole new season.
"We were in a couple of battles against Rochester," he said. "The girls have got to come out and hit some shots if we are going to beat them a third time."