Kelsey Spitzley and Allie Grys scored 15 points each and Nikki Green added 10 to lead Portland to an impressive 56-48 win over Grand Ledge in the girls basketball season opener for both teams Tuesday night.
The Raiders won the game they way they always do, with withering defensive pressure. Portland held the Comets without a field goal for a nine-minute span in the first half to go on an 18-4 run and take the lead that they would not relinquish.
“Like any Portland team, we’re going to compete on the defensive end,” Raider coach Ray Kimball said. “We’re going to battle for every loose ball. We’re not going to back down from anybody. That was the kind of effort you saw from these kids tonight.”
Lindsay Orwat led all scorers with 27 points for the Comets, 14 of them in the fourth quarter when Grand Ledge cut a 15-point Portland lead to just six in the final two minutes of the game.
But the Raiders made seven of their 10 free throws in the last 1:28 to salt the game away.
“We came out a little flat,” Grand Ledge coach David Jones said. “We had a little more energy (in the fourth quarter) to make it a closer game, but you have to give credit to Portland.
“When you score six points in the second quarter and eight points in the third quarter, it’s hard to stay in games.”
The Comets had a significant height advantage in the game, but it was hampered somewhat early, when 6-foot-3 sophomore center Cori Crocker had to come out after being called for two fouls in the first 1:30 of the contest.
Still, Grand Ledge led for most of the first quarter, and took an 11-10 lead into the second period.
Crocker came back into the game and scored all six of her team’s points in the second quarter, but Portland went on a 14-2 run that Grys started with a three-point field goal in the final seconds of the first quarter and ended on a putback with 3:25 left in the second that opened up the Portland lead to double digits at 23-13.
Allison Russell drained a three-pointer with 5:31 left in the fourth quarter to give Portland its biggest lead of the night at 47-32. But Grand Ledge made it a game late, turning up the pressure on defense themselves to spark a 9-0 run in the span of two minutes to make the score 51-45 with 1:28 on the clock.
The Comet comeback was stalled when Portland was given two free throws and the ball on what was judged an intentional foul with 1:04 left. Green made both free throws, and split six more free throws down the stretch to end the threat.
Crocker finished with 10 points in the game, which Jones hoped was a learning experience for his team.
“Portland demonstrated to us the level of play that we have to be able to get to,” he said. “We weren’t ready to play like that tonight. We’re going to establish that in practice and raise our level of play.”
Portland made a total of eight 3-pointers in the contest, something that Kimball said will be an important part of his undersized team’s offense this season.
“We’re not going to have a conscience from outside,” he said. “We’re going to throw it up there, and even though we had some untimely shots in the fourth quarter throwing it up there, we’ll work on that and get the kids to understand when those are good shots and when they aren’t.”