MATTOON — Mattoon native and Lake Land freshman Avery Jackson’s game-high 26 points helped lead the Lady Lakers (7-4, 2-2 GRC) past Southwestern Illinois College (2-6, 1-3 GRC) 71-62.
Lake Land started out flat and found themselves down 13-11 after a quarter, but through just over one minute of play in the second, Gabrielle Staub and Jackson scored, and Aislinn Parish’s steal and coast-to-coast layup gave the Lakers a lead they would not relinquish.
“For as well as we played Wednesday night, we did not have good practices Thursday and Friday,” Lake Land head coach David Johnson stated. “The second team out-played the first team those days, so they earned their shot late in the first quarter and changed the spark for us.”
In the second, Jackson took over.
After her first layup, Jackson went on a personal 7-0 run, slicing through the Blue Storm defense for a layup, downing a 3-pointer, and adding two more from the charity stripe, to give Lake Land some breathing room.
“I told Avery, ‘I don’t know if we win that game without your effort in the second,’” Johnson said. “Those were probably the best 10 minutes of basketball for Avery this season. She is a very talented kid who almost is too unselfish at times. She took really good shots and played quality defense, especially in the second.”
To put things into perspective, the Lady Lakers scored 32 points in the first half, 16 of which were Jackson’s.
SWIC came out of the locker room in a 1-2-2 zone, but Lake Land started the half out-scoring SWIC 8-4. But from there until the end of the third, SWIC started to use their size advantage.
The Blue Storm’s 6-3 center Zaria Valle and forward Sophia Thompson combined to go on a 13-4 run to cut the Lakers’ lead to 47-43 at the third quarter media timeout.
“I didn’t think we handled the zone well at first,” coach Johnson said. “Then they started taking it to us on the inside, and Mariah Spurgeon came in and gave us quality minutes playing down low.”
The advantage after three quarters for the Lakers remained four, but in the fourth quarter, it was Spurgeon who helped cushion the Lake Land lead.
Spurgeon hit the first two buckets for Lake Land – both 3s – and Staub laid back in an offensive rebound to extend the lead to 58-48 with 5:10 remaining in the game.
Dakota Crowder followed that streak with a triple of her own, but SWIC guard Danielle Hawthorne traded trifectas for free throws with Jackson on back-to-back possessions, but the Lady Lakers would not be denied.
A putback from Zyah Burnett – who finished with 10 rebounds on the night – and free throws from Parish and Crowder solidified the victory for Lake Land, who travels to Champaign on December 19 to face Parkland.