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No letdown for OAA Red’s first-place team, West Bloomfield, as No. 20 Lakers roll past Clarkston

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, January 9, 2020, 10:19 pm

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Many times, when a girls basketball team wins the Oakland Activities Association’s White Division, and gets bumped up to the league’s top rung, the OAA Red, the promotion comes a year too late for them to contend, as they graduated the core that made them good.

Other times, the defending White champion becomes an instant contender in the Red, pushing the traditional powers. 

Last year’s OAA White winner, the West Bloomfield Lakers, are definitely the latter — they aren’t here to just make a representative showing in the Red. 

They’re here to win it.

After knocking off the defending Red champs, No. 19 Southfield A&T, 71-63, on Monday, the Lakers rolled over Clarkston, 73-47, on Thursday to go to 4-0 in league play, putting themselves squarely in the driver’s seat.

“We’re experienced. We have a lot of girls who are three-year starters, who’ve played with me since I got here, so they’re pretty seasoned. That’s probably the strength of our unit. We’re pretty experienced,” coach Bert Mosley said, discounting the possibility of a letdown in Thursday’s game by noting that his team wasn’t hugely emotional after Monday’s win. 

“I’ll be honest with you — not much, because we expected to win the Southfield game. A lot of people talked about ‘Southfield lost …’ but we won. We knew we were the better team, and we just had to go out and prove it.” 

Clarkston (5-3, 1-2 OAA Red) kept it close for a quarter and a half, but the Lakers (7-2, 4-0) started to pull away in the second quarter, leading 34-24 at the half, and 53-37 headed to the fourth. The separation continued right after the halftime break, as Lakers guard Ashli Jenkins nailed a 3-pointer on the first possession, setting the tone.

“We really wanted to just do that, out of the halftime, set the tone. We gave up a quick bucket (after that), but I think we really got composed, made the adjustments, and got the stops that we needed. … We were a little rushy in the first half,” Mosley said. “That’s what me and the girls talked about, playing a team like Clarkston. Ever since I was in high school, they’ve been a disciplined team. We knew that was going to be the case. We felt like we were more skilled, more talented than them, but the discipline that they have — their girls play the game the right way, play help defense the right way — we’ve gotta do what we do the right way, and execute. … Just adjustments. We had to make some adjustments on the weak side. We were playing terrible weak-side defense. In the third quarter, I thought we made the adjustment, and the score kind of reflected it.”

The Wolves made a few runs in the second half, but once the lead got as high as 27 points, they couldn’t ever cut it back closer than 16.

“I told my girls the first three minutes of that second half really defines the game. It’s so important that we come out of that locker room hot, and they hit that 3(-pointer) right off the bat, and I go ‘Dang it …’” Clarkston coach John Weyer said. “I thought our girls battled back really strong. Sometimes, you run into a buzz-saw. West Bloomfield is tough. You never get a night off in the OAA Red.”

Sydney Hendrix led all scorers with 17 points, while Logan Lewis had 15. In all, 10 different Lakers scored at least one point in the game. 

Kaelyn Kaul hit a trio of 3-pointers, and led Clarkston with 11 points. 

Mosley isn’t surprised by his team’s start, even with the change in division.

“The White was a strong league last year. In my opinion, the White was a stronger league, balance-wise. But the Red, you’ve got the best of the best, so we’ve definitely got to make sure that we bring our ‘A’ game every night, because all of these teams are familiar with each other, and they do a good job scouting,” the coach said. “They (the Wolves) were at our game Monday — I saw the whole team up there.”

It was an eye-opening scouting trip for the Wolves, who hadn’t played since Dec. 20.

“Monday, I really saw the team that they were. They deserve the rankings, deserve the credit that they get, absolutely,” Weyer said. “I thought we might be able to hang with them a little bit — we tried to expand it out a little bit, and open some things up in the middle.”