By Teddy Rydquist
Review Sports Contributor
The tip-off of Lake Orion’s “Rivalry Night” promotion, the Lady Dragons basketball team battled their rival Clarkston Wolves at the O’Rena on the campus of Oakland University on Jan. 29.
Unable to generate any traction offensively, Lake Orion was routed by Clarkston, 45-31. Led by junior Taylor Heaton’s 15 points, the Wolves raced out to a 22-2 advantage after the opening frame and took a 34-6 cushion into the half.
The Dragons did outscore Clarkston, 17-4, in the fourth quarter, but by then, it was too little, too late. Juniors Meghan Marshall and Kendall Robertson each tallied a team-high nine points for Lake Orion.
While the Dragons were the official home team for the showdown at the O’Rena, the team returned home for a true home game against a divisional foe, the Rochester Adams Highlanders, on Jan. 31.
A near carbon copy of the game two nights prior, Rochester Adams jumped out to a 15-3 lead after the first quarter. Extending the gap to 22-5 midway through the second, Lake Orion head coach Bob Brydges took a timeout and sent his girls a fiery message.
Showing their coach they had received the message, the Lady Dragons ended the half on a 5-1 run to cut the margin to 13 points, 23-10, at the half.
Riding the talents of seniors Nicole Claerhout and Amelia Drahnak, two of the Oakland Activities Association White division’s most well-rounded players, the Highlanders were able to keep Lake Orion at ease throughout the second half, holding on for a comfortable 46-31 win.
Claerhout finished with a game-high 12 points, Drahnak and junior Lauren Petersmark added eight points apiece. The Dragons leading scorer on the night, Robertson, had only six points, but nine of her teammates appeared on the scoresheet with her, including Marshall and sophomore Olivia Peplowski, who both chipped in five points.
“Their full-court pressure didn’t really bother us, but then we would get into our half-court sets and we’d throw the basketball all over the gym,” Brydges said of the Rochester Adams defeat.
“That was the most frustrating part. When I watch the film, I’m sure we’ll have over 20 turnovers again. That’s on me as a coach as well as the girls, but we’re drilling it every day in practice, how to handle pressure.”
Standing at 4-8 overall and 1-6 in divisional play, Lake Orion is tied with the Oxford Wildcats for a share of sixth-place in the OAA White, three games back of four other schools for a slice of second-place.
The Dragons will have three consecutive non-league games as the team attempts to move closer to the .500 mark, beginning with a road clash with the Notre Dame Prep Irish (3-10) on Feb. 4. Results from this contest were not available at press time.
Brydges’ team will return home to follow this up with a game with the Romeo Bulldogs (4-6, 2-4 Macomb Area Conference – White) on Feb. 6, before hitting the road once again to battle the Royal Oak Ravens (6-7, 2-5 OAA Red) on Feb. 7. All three of these games begin at 7 p.m.
“One of the interesting things about our season has been that you are seeing a few positives each game, and you’re not necessarily seeing them from the same girls, either,” Brydges shared.
“Liv (Olivia) Peplowski and (junior) Claudia Staruch did some good things for us tonight. I told our youngsters after the game, you’re not freshmen or sophomores as basketball players anymore. We’re past the halfway point of our season, so, we’re past some of the mistakes we’re making.
“You look at our game against Oxford (on Jan. 23), we came out and executed the game plan. We moved the basketball, limited ourselves to 16 turnovers, attacked the rim, so we’ve shown we’re capable of doing it. Notre Dame Prep is not going to be a pushover, and Royal Oak is an OAA Red school. I enjoy playing up and challenging our girls against the Red schools. I want to continue doing that.”
It also appears Lake Orion received a bit of good news on the injury front. Junior guard/forward Melissa Normand, also a standout on the school’s soccer team, left the game against Rochester Adams in the second quarter with a neck injury, but it does not appear to be a long-term concern.
“I think she’ll be okay, it was more precautionary,” Brydges said of the decision to hold her out of the second half.
“She hit her head on another player’s head, so she tweaked her neck. We’ll reevaluate her on Monday, but I don’t see her out long-term, if at all. I hope not. She’s a good kid, we need her.”