Lake Orion girls basketball ends season in district final

By Wendi Reardon Price
Staff Writer
WATERFORD — With less than two seconds left on the clock Clarkston freshman Brooklyn Covert passed the ball to junior Elia Morgner, who hit a layup.
The basket gave the Wolves a 41-40 lead over Lake Orion to win the MHSAA Division 1 Girls Basketball District 29 Final at Waterford Mott High School last Friday.
“It wasn’t necessarily designed to be a last bucket,” said Aaron Goodnough, head coach for Clarkston girls varsity basketball. “It was the second option on the play. But we knew we didn’t need a three (pointer). It’s run for a three or a two, and they covered the three and we got the two.”
“I knew it was gonna be a battle,” said Bob Brydges, head coach for Lake Orion girls varsity basketball. “They beat us at their place. We beat them at our place by a point. They beat us tonight by a point. It was a great game. They played their hearts out. We played our hearts out. They just made one more shot than we did.”
The Dragons closed the first quarter with a 12-4 lead with a 3-pointer from junior Charlie Peplowski, four points from senior Ryann Pawlaczyk and points on the free throw line from juniors Izzy Wotlinski and Nevaeh Wood.
“We just came out flat,” said Goodnough. “I don’t know if that was the Lake Orion versus Clarkston thing. I’m sure it was to some extent. We didn’t play bad defense in the first half. We just gave up a couple easy buckets. Our first six fouls to get them on the free throw line early were nervous fouls – that’s the only way I can define them. We deserved (all) six of them.”
The Wolves shot better in the second quarter, scoring nine points with a 3-pointer and a free throw shot each from Covert and Morgner and a basket from sophomore Elli Robak.
Clarkston held Wotlinski and Pawlaczyk to four points each, with the Dragons closing the half leading, 20-13.
“We knew we could turn the pressure up a little bit, but we knew the defense was always going to be there,” Goodnough said.
It was a closer battle during the second half as Clarkston closed in on the score after a 9-point run with three points from senior Emily Valencia and baskets from junior Ellery Hernandez, Robak and Morgner, closing the gap by three points.
Lake Orion scored twice in the last three minutes of the quarter with baskets from Pawlaczyk and Wotlinski.
The Wolves added four more points as well from Morgner and Valencia.
The teams headed into the fourth quarter with the Dragons leading, 30-26.
The Wolves cut Lake Orion’s lead down to one point after Morgner scored two points on the free throw line with 4:40 left in the game. She scored another basket after Lake Orion responded with two points.
It was a back and forth battle as Wotlinski scored two points to put the Dragons’ lead back up to three points, 38-35.
Robak scored a basket to cut the lead back down to one point.
Robak scored again with 28.2 seconds left in the game, putting the Wolves up by one point.
Pawlaczyk scored nine seconds later, putting the Dragons in the lead, 40-39. Then Clarkston called a timeout with 6.2 seconds left in the game.
“They hit one shot more than we did at the end,” Brydges said. “Good for them. Congratulations to those guys, best of luck to them in regionals. This one will hurt tonight. We’ll get up tomorrow, start getting back in the gym and go to work.”
Robak led the Wolves with 12 points. Morgner scored 11 points and Covert had eight points.
Pawlaczyk led Lake Orion with 14 points. Wotlinkski had 13 points and Wood had five points.
Lake Orion finished the season with an overall 15-9 and 3-7 in the OAA Red.
“I’m proud of my kids,” said Brydges. “I lost nine seniors last year. We have one kid that has played in a district game coming into this series, and only one has ever won a district off of this team. We’re excited about getting to the summer now, putting in the work being right back here next year.”
Brydges added that the season was up and down for the young team.
“We started out 7-0 and then we went on a 0-6 slide,” he said. “Then, we kind of got our balance back a little bit, played up and down still a little bit. But, you know, win a couple, lose one. Listen, if you told me at the beginning of the season, I’ll be playing a district championship and I’d be 15-9 at the end of the year, I’d take it in a heartbeat.”
The Dragons graduate four seniors – Pawlaczyk, Ellie Britt, Ally Jones and Lexi Strohschein.
“There’s only been a few teams that have been able to win back-to-back championships this year. (Clarkston) accomplished that,” Brydges said. “They were part of that. They kept us together down the stretch. They put the work in. I wish them nothing but the best, I really do.”

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