MATTOON — It wasn’t the cleanest game for the Lake Land women’s basketball team on sophomore night at Laker Field House on Friday against Olney Central College.
Lake Land turned the ball over 21 times and committed 19 fouls, which helped OCC take 25 free throws in the game.
But the Lady Lakers still found a way to win thanks to the team’s second-half defense. After shooting 50 percent in the first half, Lake Land held OCC to only 29.6 percent shooting (8-of-27) in the second half and held the Lady Knights to just one 3-pointer after the half.
Lake Land outscored OCC 18-10 in the third quarter to build a nice lead and then held on in the fourth quarter for a 70-67 win.
“I do think we had a lot better focus on defense in the second half,” Lake Land coach Dave Johnson said. “I thought in the first half, we had a good rhythm offensively, but we just weren’t getting enough stops. We struggled in the first half, but in the second half, we played smarter and stayed in front better on their drivers.”
Lake Land ended the regular season with a 20-10 record, including 12-6 in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference. The Lady Lakers travel to Springfield for the Region tournament on Friday, March 2.
It was the last regular season game for sophomores Koty Crowder, Mariah Spurgeon, Alex Van Kamecke, Callie Williams and Abby Bush.
The sophomore group has a 3.56 GPA.
“They played a key role on our team for two years,” Johnson said. “I always tell people, don’t value your role on the based on the minutes you play. You bring a lot to practice and games. These kids have given us a lot in these two years, and they deserved that moment tonight. Hopefully, there will be more moments for them in the next week.
“I am proud of this group. It’s tough, a very emotional night. It’s hard to play your last game in your gym, and I thought our sophomores handled the very well.”
Avery Jackson had 19 points for Lake Land, and Crowder and Jaycie Roy each had 14 points. Gabby Staub had 11 rebounds.
Olney Central had a 9-6 lead when sophomores Mariah Spurgeon and Alex Von Kamecke hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put Lake Land up 12-9.
Olney Central responded with a 3. Callie Williams hit a 3-pointer, and Crowder made a jumper to put Lake Land back up 17-12.
The Lady Lakers held onto the lead for the rest of the quarter. They hit six 3-pointers in the first quarter, which helped Lake Land to a 23-19 lead.
Lake Land led 28-21 when the Lady Knights went on a 9-0 run to go up 30-28. Jamie Sandschafer hit a 3-pointer to put the Lady Lakers up again. Aislinn Parish added a layup, and Roy hit a jumper to complete an 8-0 run to give Lake Land 35-30 lead.
Olney Central scored the next 5 points when Jackson scored on a layup, and Crowder made a jumper as Lake Land went into halftime with a 39-38 lead.
Jackson completed a traditional 3-point play and made a layup, and Roy hit a 3-pointer as Lake Land started the second half on an 8-0 run. The Lady Lakers held OCC scoreless for the first 5 minutes of the second half and built a 47-38 lead.
“I thought we shot the 3 well in the first half,” Johnson said. “Got to the basket better in the second half.”
Lake Land went into the fourth quarter with a 57-48 lead. OCC cut LLC’s lead to 63-59 with 4:02 remaining when Jackson hit a baseline runner and two free throws to put Lake Land back up by 8.
The Lady Knights went on a 6-0 run to cut it to 67-65 with 37 seconds left.
Roy hit a free throw and OCC got two free throws from Haley Baxter to pull the Lady Knights within one at 68-67 with 20 seconds left.
Jackson made two free throws to give Lake Land a 3-point lead again. OCC missed a 3-pointer, but LCC missed both free throws with 6 seconds left.
“We got out on (Kayla Sanford) and made that a tough three,” Johnson said.
Jackson sealed the game as she jumped a passing lane for a steal, and she dribbled it out as Lake Land got the 70-67 win.
“Avery makes a great play there at the end to make that steal,” Johnson said. “We planned on fouling there because we had foul to give, but she did such a good job of reading it that we didn’t need a foul.”