BY MIKE ECKERT
— TRAVERSE CITY — When Glen Lake tipped off its regional semifinal on Monday, it was only 72 hours removed from celebrating its first district championship since 2002.
Think there was a hangover? Think again.
The Lakers came out firing on all cylinders and put Lincoln-Alcona away early with a 70-44 victory in the Class C regional semifinal at Traverse City West.
Glen Lake (22-2) moves on to play Shelby (16-8) for the regional title on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Tigers advanced with a 79-57 win over Pine River in Monday’s first semifinal.
Shelby is all-too-familiar to many of the Lakers, after beating Glen Lake for the district championship in football.
“It’ll be nice to get another shot at them,” said Glen Lake’s Carter Lee, who is also quarterback on the football team. “It’ll be a real good game. For the football game, we had to go down there, so it’ll be nice that they have to to come up here for this one.”
Lincoln-Alcona (15-6) took a 7-5 lead early in the first quarter off a Jared Steiner 3-pointer. It would be the last time the Lakers trailed.
Glen Lake closed out the quarter on a 17-2 run for a 22-9 lead and extended it to 43-23 at the half.
“I think we’re starting to ramp it up defensively, which tonight made our offense go,” Glen Lake coach Todd Hazelton said. “We had a lot of fast-break baskets. That helped us out a lot.”
The Lakers finished with 12 steals on the night and a lot of transition buckets.
“That’s what we emphasize in practice,” Lakers senior Curtis Bunek said. “It’s defense, defense, defense. Defense will take us a long way.”
“We watched tape on Lincoln-Alcona on Saturday and we felt like we could run a little bit more than we did against St. Francis,” Hazelton said. “St. Francis loves to do that, and we didn’t feel Lincoln-Alcona would like to run. So we wanted to be up-tempo, for sure.”
Lee was at the center of the up-tempo game. He scored all of his 16 points in the first half and finished with four steals.
“He is an incredible athlete,” Hazelton said. “He gets up and down the floor. And he likes to go for steals.
Sometimes, maybe a little too much, but when we can get up and down like that, we’re pretty tough.
Perhaps the defining moment of the game came in the closing seconds of the first half. Glen Lake got a bucket inside from Matt Omerza with 3 seconds remaining. The Tigers inbounded the ball, but Lee stole it away, drove to the basket for a layup at the horn and a 43-23 halftime lead.
“I saw they were going to go for a half-court shot, so they weren’t really going hard,” Lee said. “So I just came in from behind, got a steal and put it in.”
Mike O’Brien also had a big night for Glen Lake with 25 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, three blocks and a steal. Parker Kokowicz dished out seven assists while Logan LaCross had nine rebounds and five blocks.
Trenton Lavernge led Lincoln-Alcona with 11 points.
Up next is Shelby, which looked impressive in its win over Pine River.
“They’re tough,” Hazelton said. “They went seven or eight deep and they look like football players. They’re strong, athletic guys. We’re definitely going to have to play well to get them.”
Shelby’s win over Pine River came after the two teams met a week ago in the girls regional semifinal. The outcome was the same both times.
”They’ve had two good teams with their girls and boys programs,” Shelby coach Rick Zoulek said. “We had a lot of respect for them and we knew they would be tough on both sides. We’re just happy to move on right now.”
After a back-and-forth first quarter ended tied at 20-20, Shelby pulled ahead 39-30 at the half thanks to some big 3-pointers from Devin Mussell and eight points inside off offensive rebounds from Spencer Peters.
”I kind of feel like we ran into a buzz saw,” Pine River coach Brian Goodenow said. “I don’t know what they shot percentage-wise, but they were making everything. And then when they did miss, they got their own rebound and put it back. But nothing to hang our heads about. My kids had a great season and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The Bucks cut the lead to 43-38 midway through the third quarter off a Mitchell McDonald bucket from Skyler Nelson, but the Tigers closed out the quarter on a 14-2 run to put it away.
Shelby pounded the ball inside during the run as Pine River center Lincoln Erickson was on the bench with four fouls.
Andrew Beckman led Shelby with 16 points while Mussell had 15 points and Peters added 13 points.
For Pine River, McDonald had 15 points while Erickson and Devin Ruppert each scored 10 points. Erickson added nine rebounds.