In the first game of the season, it’s good to have some experience to fall back on if opening night jitters start to get the better of you.
With four returning starters and three three-year varsity players on the floor, Lakeview moved past some early troubles and pulled away late for a win to start the season.
Lakeview defeated Portage Central, 66-56, in this non-division Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference boys’ basketball contest at Lakeview on Tuesday.
All four of those returning scorers hit double figures in the game as Jake Bivens, Donnie Ernsberger and Tyreace Frederick each had 14 points and Jake Love had 12.
Portage Central controlled the game early as Lakeview went 1-for-15 from the free throw line in the first half. But the Spartans didn’t panic and let their veteran experience take over in the second half in the victory.
“Great to get a win on opening night,” said Lakeview coach Steve Wichmann. “I thought our team showed a lot of maturity, because I don’t think we played as well as we can and I don’t think things went our way early. But having the veterans on the floor really helped us, because in the second half that veteran leadership really came through.”
Lakeview had an initial surge to lead 22-17 early in the second quarter after an 8-3 run. However, the Mustangs went on a 12-0 run of their own in the second quarter, that included three straight 3-pointers, as Portage Central led 31-26 at halftime.
A big part of that deficit for the Spartans came because Lakeview couldn’t score once it reached the charity stripe.
“We spent a lot of time working on free throws, don’t know what happened tonight,” Wichmann said. “I think it can be contagious. When guys start missing, other guys start missing. In the second half that turned around, so it can be contagious the other way, too. Once we started making a couple it knocked the lid off the basket.”
The Spartans started the second half fast and took their first lead after intermission after Frederick hit a 3-pointer on the break, followed by a fast-break layup by Love to give Lakeview a 41-37 lead with :30 left in the quarter.
However, Portage Central wouldn’t go away and the Mustangs took the lead again to open the fourth quarter.
But Lakeview’s Jake Bivens hit a 3-pointer to tie the game again at 46-46, then a little later, he added a layup to put the Spartans up 52-48 with 4:20 left in the quarter. During that spurt, Bivens had seven points as Lakeview started to take control.
Portage Central wouldn’t score again until there was 1:40 remaining in the game with Lakeview owning a 59-48 lead.
“Bivens hit the 3 to tie. Then the next possession we went up. And I think once we got the lead, that might have broken their spirit a little bit, and I think our guys did relax a little after that,” Wichmann said.
What was also frustrating for Portage Central was that Lakeview owned the glass in the second half and forced several turnovers as the Mustangs had 21 on the game.
“Our defensive intensity got better in the second half and we turned them over more in the second half,” Wichmann said. “Part of our plan is to play pressure defense and to wear teams down and I think maybe they got worn down a little bit. Plus, rebounding was big for us in the second half. All of our guys got in there and pounded the offensive glass.”
For the game, the Spartans outrebounded the Mustangs 45-35. Frederick led Lakeview with 11 rebounds with Jake Love and Donnie Ernsberger each getting nine caroms. Love added four steals with Bivens and Frederick each getting three steals and Camden Hames chipped in with two steals to go with eight points.
“Credit to Steve and Lakeview, they did great job on the glass tonight and I think that’s what decided it tonight,” Portage Central coach Darryl Blasingame said. “Not sure if the turnovers hurt us too much. I think in the end, they just won on the glass.”
Max Ryan had 14 points to lead Portage Central with Ben Palmer getting 13 and Austin McCullough adding 11.