March 07, 2012 - By Joe St. Henry
Senior Laura Turnbull passes the ball away as three Falcons decend on her. Photo by J. St. Henry (click for larger version)
Special Writer for The Review
Beating a team three times in one season is not easy.
The Lake Orion girls' basketball team found this out the hard way last week. After beating Rochester twice during the regular season, the Lady Dragons lost to the Falcons in the first round of the district playoffs, 39-34.
Lake Orion finished its 2011-12 campaign with a 14-7 record, including a 10-4 mark in the OAA White division (second place).
Ironically, two years ago it was Lake Orion that suffered two regular season losses to Rochester before upsetting the Falcons in the first round, en route to the district title.
"In as competitive a league as we're in, winning three against the same team in one season is tough," Lake Orion Head Coach Steve Roberts said. "Usually, it's the team that lost last that has an advantage, with the added incentive of revenge on their minds.
"Before the game, I told the girls to go out there and take care of business but, unfortunately, we came up short this time."
Roberts admitted that the girls' streaky shooting all season caught up to them against Rochester, with Lake Orion failing to make a basket in the first quarter and falling behind 10-3.
"I told them at the end of the quarter that I knew we'd score more than ten in the game," the coach said. "We had to keep the team mentally in the game. I thought our defense could do that until we started hitting some shots."
Unfortunately, it took the Lady Dragons until the 4:10 mark in the second quarter to bury a basket, with tough defense and fouls shots indeed keeping the team in the game.
Sophomore Nicole Krier's cutting layup near the end of the quarter actually cut the Rochester lead to one, 12-11. (She had eight points in the first half.) The Falcons, however, regained the momentum with a long three-point basket at the buzzer to take a 15-11 lead into halftime.
As it had done many times during the season, Lake Orion came out strong in the third quarter. Consecutive baskets by senior Marisa Secontine brought the Lady Dragons within two points. Rochester called timeout to stem the momentum, however, and then hit two outside shots of its own to cushion the lead.
Still, Lake Orion hung around during the remainder of the quarter. Two free throws by Krier, followed by a heads-up steal and basket by her on a Rochester inbound play brought the Lady Dragons within four at the end of the third period, 25-21.
Lake Orion's poor shooting returned to start the fourth quarter and Rochester took control of the game for good at the 4:02 mark, when the Falcons hit the second of back-to-back three point shots to up their lead to ten points.
"There were times when the basket looked so small for us," Roberts said. "While the other team hit just about anything they threw up."
Secontine completed a three-point play and freshman Hannah Hamay scored seven points down the stretch for Lake Orion to keep it close, but Rochester hit three free throws at the end of the game to secure the playoff win.
"Our trend all season was to hang around until late in the game, then pull it out," Roberts said. "But this time, it didn't go their way."
For the game, Lake Orion shot 10-47 from the field. Krier led the team in scoring with 12 points. Secontine finished with ten, all in the second half, and Hamay scored seven.
Despite the early playoff exit, Roberts said he was proud of his team's play this season, especially considering four returning players were out virtually all of the season.
"We had to overcome so many injuries and our younger players really stepped in and stepped up this year," he said. "It takes a while to adjust to the speed and competition on the varsity level and I think they need a great job."
After the loss, Roberts reminded the team they won 14 hard-earned games.
"We were a darkhorse to compete for the league title before the injuries," he said. "Despite them, we were able to salvage the season and compete for the championship up to the last week of the season. That is quite an accomplishment."
Secontine averaged 13 points and eight rebounds a game during the season for Lake Orion. Roberts said she is expected to play college basketball.
The coach said he has a strong nucleus of players coming back next year, with six-to-eight returning – four of whom receiving a "major" minutes this year – guards Krier, Hamay and junior Melanie Heath, plus junior forward Emilie Kipp.