High School Girls Basketball

Seven Lakes falls short in bi-district playoffs

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 2/11/21

For 30 minutes of Thursday’s Class 6A girls basketball bi-district playoff game against Ridge Point, Seven Lakes seemingly had things under control. Victory seemed likely.

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High School Girls Basketball

Seven Lakes falls short in bi-district playoffs

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For 30 minutes of Thursday’s Class 6A girls basketball bi-district playoff game against Ridge Point, Seven Lakes seemingly had things under control. Victory seemed likely.

The upstart Spartans had executed coach Angela Spurlock’s game plan almost flawlessly and looked set to elude the veteran, battle-tested talent of the Panthers.

And then, everything abruptly came to a screeching halt for Seven Lakes. All the momentum, all the energy. The entire season.

Ridge Point outscored Seven Lakes, 8-0, during the final 90 seconds to escape with a 66-60 win at the Merrell Center, ending the Spartans’ season in devastating fashion.

Ridge Point improved to 13-7 overall and beat the Spartans in the bi-district round for the second consecutive season. Seven Lakes, the No. 2 seed out of District 19-6A, wrapped up an encouraging season at 15-5.

“Down the stretch, they played Ridge Point basketball,” Spurlock said. “They’re a great team. You’re going to have to withstand those surges, and I thought we did a good job of that early. With a couple minutes to go, we had chances for a few extra baskets and points and just didn’t convert very well. But it’s about when you’re up five or six early and can’t open that lead, those moments throughout the game add up more than the moments at the end of the game.”

The Spartans led 58-51 early in the fourth quarter before the Panthers went on a 7-2 run to trail just 60-58 with 1:48 left. Then sophomore guard Inonda Peterson flung in a 3-pointer from dead center that put Ridge Point ahead to stay, 61-60 with 1:27 left.

“Huge 3,” Ridge Point coach Michael Vitek said. “The youngest kid on our team. Played on the freshman team last year. She may not always be in the right spot or do the right thing, but she’s always going 100 percent. For her to step up and hit that shot … that’s when we knew we were in it.”

After Peterson’s 3, Seven Lakes freshman post Justice Carlton, who was phenomenal all night with a game-high 32 points and 18 rebounds, missed inside. Senior post Dala Allen converted a layup for the Panthers on the other end.

Seven Lakes turned it over on its final four possessions, and senior guard Raven Adams hit three of five free throws in the closing seconds for Ridge Point to seal the win.

“It’s been a rough year,” Vitek said. “We were in quarantine (for COVID-19 protocols) for two weeks prior to this. In the last three weeks, we played two games and had four practices. Getting back on the court was good for us, because our girls know what we can do when everything starts to click.”

It was the Spartans clicking early.

Buoyed by terrific 3-point shooting and the dominance of Carlton, Seven Lakes led 29-25 at halftime and 47-42 after the third quarter. When Spurlock talks about missed opportunities, it’s those moments early on when the Spartans could have extended a six-point lead to eight or nine, or a seven-point lead to double-figures.

“If you look at the whole 32 minutes, I don’t think it comes down to one or two things at the end of the game,” Spurlock said. “It comes down to a few things throughout the game. Wherever we had a chance to open up the lead, their players did great things, and that changes the momentum. Our kids executed exactly what we wanted them to execute. It’s a game. We just fell short right at the end.”

Seven Lakes was close a few times to blowing the game open, but Ridge Point always had an answer, often via unbelievable shot-making by senior guard Aleighyah Fontenot, who scored 27 points, drilling five of 11 3-pointers. Fontenot had a big 13-point third quarter to counter the greatness of Carlton, who scored nine in the same period, and keep Ridge Point in contention.

“She’s a special player,” Vitek said. “She can fill it up from anywhere. She’s done that in this building before, last year in the regional semifinals. Even if she’s not on early, she’s on late. We lean on her.”

Fontenot only scored three points in the fourth quarter, but Allen picked up the slack, scoring 10 of her 18 points in the quarter to go with a team-high 11 rebounds. Adams (13 points, seven assists) finished off the Spartans.

Carlton was incredible, scoring 11 of her 20 second-half points in the fourth quarter.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to see her grow in the game, and I thought our perimeter players did a terrific job of getting her the basketball in the right situations,” Spurlock said of her star 6-foot-3 rookie. “Her team rallied around her. Our 3-point shooters stepped up early. You can have a great player like Justice on the inside, but the perimeter players have to open that up so that she can work. They made Justice better, and Justice made them better.”

Senior guard Sarah Narum added 12 points, connecting on four of seven 3s, and six assists for Seven Lakes. Junior guard KK Tucker and senior forward Lily Baumgardner finished with five points apiece.

Like Ridge Point, Seven Lakes also went through a trying campaign. It was a unique season unlike any other for Spurlock, who was visibly emotional afterward.

“It’s sad to say goodbye to five outstanding seniors. Outstanding,” Spurlock said of Baumgardner, Narum, Addison Poth, Kennedy Johnston-Nelson and Ximena Diaz. “It’s been a special year for all of us, with COVID, and for me, personally. It’s a senior class I’ll miss a great deal. It’s the small things. They made us laugh as a coaching staff. They made it fun. They made us better basketball coaches. Every day, every practice, every game. They never went a day without telling us hi or telling us goodbye, no matter how the practice or game went. ‘Hello, Coach.’ ‘We’ll see you tomorrow, Coach.’ Every day. A lot of teams can’t do that. That kindness means the most.

“Twenty games isn’t enough. I’d love to have had them in a regulation year. I want more of the fun times. I want more because of how much I love them and how much they love each other. I’m blessed to have coached them.”

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