By Mike Monahan
Defense was the name of the game Wednesday at the Lake Land Fieldhouse where Lake Land and John Wood combined for only 77 points.
The Lakers, the No. 15 team in the NJCAA Divison II, won their third straight game beating the Blazers 48-29 in a women’s basketball game.
that was just a four-point Lake Land lead at the half.
John Wood (7-16) didn’t score more than nine points in one quarter, but did lead 9-7 after the first 10 minutes and 17-16 with three minutes left in the half.
Lake Land, which improved to 18-6 overall and 6-2 in Region 24 games, took the lead for good on a putback by Olivia Niemerg in the second quarter. Tayler Barry tallied the last four points of the half to pad Lake Lands lead to 21-17 at halftime.
‘’I thought we played great half-court defense,” said Lake Land coach David Johnson. “I think that was huge for us tonight. We held them to 12 points in the second half and really cut off their 3-point game. Lenlee Klusman scored 32 points Monday night against Lewis & Clark and we held her to five points. I thought our kids did a great job on defense and their effort was good. I don’t know if, mentally, our effort was good offensively. I think sometimes we just think that when we shoot it is going to go in.”
Freshman Lexie Niebrugge scored nine points in the third quarter, all on 3-pointers – including back-to-back 3s for a 34-21 advantage with 3:50 left in the third. She made three of seven attempts overall.
“I moved her to point because they kept going underneath the ball screen and Lexie is not hesitant to shoot the 3,” Johnson said. “I knew she would get some looks and way and she nailed them. That gave us some separation.”
Lake Land last held a team to 29 or fewer points on Nov. 23, 2019 in a 62-29 victory over John Wood.
Lake Land went on a 7-0 run early in the fourth starting with a 3-pointer by Olivia Niemerg, two free throws by Barry and a basket by Avery Still for a 43-25 advantage with just 3:42 left. Niemerg finished with 13 points, while Tayer Barry scored 10 of her team-high 14 in the second quarter. Niebrugge added 11. Only five players scored for the Lakers.
“Niemerg doesn’t realize how good she is,” said Johnson. “I tell her that every day. She is a fantastic player in everyone else’s eyes but her own. That maybe is what holds her back a little bit.”
Lake Land was 16-of-45 from the field, including 7-of-21 from beyond the three-point line and 10-of-13 from the free throw line.
“We have to be a better passing team,” said Johnson. “We have to recognize what is coming off the screen a little better and make our decisions a little quicker. We are dribbling way too much and it is even a lateral dribble. We are not aggressive in the gap down hill dribbling. At this time we are easier to guard.”
John Wood, losers of four straight, was 12-of-45 from the field, including 1-for-12 from beyond the 3-point line and 2-of-4 from the free throw line. The Blazers were led by Ajanee Garrett with six points.
“A region win is a good thing,” said Johnson. ”In the second half we took better care of the ball for the most part, which didn’t allow them to get out in transition either.”
Lake Land travels to Lewis & Clark for a 1 p.m. game on Saturday.
LAKE LAND: Niemerg 5 1-2 13, Sirjord 0 0-0 0, Barry 4 5-8 14, Niebrugge 4 0-0 11, Avery Still 2 3-3 7, Barber 0 0-0 0, Watson 0 0-0 0, Russo 0 0-0 0, Custis 0 0-0 0, Phillips 0 0-0 0, Orris 1 0-0-3. Totals 16-9-48
3-point goals: Lake Land 7-21 (.333) Niebrugge 3, Niemerg 2, Barry 1, Orris 1), John Wood 1-12 (.083). Klussman 1.
Lake Land total field goals: 16-45 .356, John Wood 13-45 .289. Free throws: Lake Land 9-13 (.692), John Wood 2-4 .500