After picking up its first girls basketball loss of the season at the buzzer, East Lansing averted a similar defeat in a hard-fought 35-32 victory over Portland on Tuesday night.
Taylor Gordon and Piper Tucker led the Trojans (6-1) with eight points each, but it was Tucker’s block of a Raider 3-point attempt in the final seconds that prevented a most unwelcome sense of deja vu.
“We got beat by Goodrich on a three at the buzzer that was uncontested,” East Lansing coach Rob Smith said. “Tonight we blocked a good look that they had, and I like that a lot better.”
The game was a battle between two of the top programs in the area, with East Lansing coming in as the sixth-ranked team in the state in Class A and the Raiders ranked seventh in Class B.
Madison King led all scorers with nine points for Portland (7-3), who dressed just seven players for the game due to injuries.
Portland coach Ray Kimball refused to use his lack of available bodies as an excuse for the loss, his team’s third in a row.
“I don’t know if it had a huge effect,” Kimball said. “Maybe a few of our shots were short because we were tired, but it’s what we have and we’re going to keep fighting with what we’ve got.”
Smith said that he wanted to exploit the Raiders’ short bench. East Lansing pressed Portland the length of the court for virtually the entire contest.
“We tried to run them early, we did everything we could, but they’re just so disciplined,” he said. “I know that it seemed like an ugly game, but that’s just great execution on their part, great coaching.”
Meechi Thompson hit two free throws with 28.7 seconds on the clock to stretch the Trojan lead to three points, but Portland had two shots from beyond the arc with a chance to tie the game after that.
Allison Russell, who opened the game with a three from the corner at the other end, had a similar look with about 6 seconds left, but Tucker used every inch of her 6-foot frame to jump out and get a hand on it. Portland retained possession, and Kelsey Spitzley had a rushed, contested three attempt at the buzzer that missed the mark.
“There are no moral victories,” Kimball said. “I’m proud of the way my kids competed against one of the best teams in the area, but I’m not happy we got beat.”
East Lansing took its biggest lead of the game early in the fourth quarter when Thompson’s jumper from the free-throw line made the score 30-25, but the Raiders tied the score on a 3-point play by King and a tough layup by Nicole Green to set up the tight finish.
King cut a 3-point lead to just one with a back-door layup with 30 seconds left, but with the Raiders forced to foul, picked up her fifth on the ensuing inbounds, sending Thompson to the line.
“Portland is a scrappy, scrappy team and they work really hard,” Smith said.
“Our kids just had to go out and grind this one out, and they did at the end.”