The Portland High School Girls basketball team traveled to Belding on Monday night to face the Ionia Bulldogs in the first round of MHSAA district play. This was the third meeting between the teams this year, with Portland winning both of the previous contests.
The Ionia defense caused some problems for the Lady Raiders early, preventing Portland from being able to move the ball as they had planned. Strong post play by Ionia’s Brynn Reams also caused some challenges for the Raiders, including Portland starter Breckyn Werner getting two early fouls and having to sit much of the quarter. Reams would have 8 points in the quarter. The first quarter ended with Ionia leading 16-13.
The score remained close through the second quarter of play as both teams battled hard. Portland aggressive defense started to cause some trouble for the Bulldogs. Portland’s Hannah Schrauben would hit a big three pointer to tie the game at 25 with 1:22 remaining in the quarter. Portland’s Ava Guilford would steal the ball multiple times in the quarter, including one which she was able to take all the way for two points. The Raiders would end the second quarter with a 27-25 lead.
The third quarter would see more strong play from both squads. Portland’s Ava Gruber would hit a three pointer to regain the lead with 1:43 remaining in the quarter, and Ashley Bower would nail a two as time expired to give the Lady Raiders a two-point lead at the end of the third, 36-34.
In the fourth quarter, Portland’s aggressive defense started to take its toll on the Bulldogs. Alivia Densmore stole the ball from Ionia twice in two consecutive possessions. A basket by Werner and another steal by Bower would give Portland the ball with a 42-34 lead with 3:24 remaining in the game.
A three-point play by Werner, followed by Densmore slapping an Ionia pass to Bower who took it all the way for two would extend Portland’s lead to 50-37 with 2:21 remaining.
Despite several long shot opportunities with Raider defenders in the faces in the closing minutes. Ionia’s shooting would go cold.
The Raiders would finish the game with a 58-39 victory.
Reams would lead Ionia with 13 points. Morgan Canfield would add 8 for the Bulldogs.
Portland was led by Bower with 18 points. Portland’s birthday girl Ava Guilford would have 16 points. Densmore would finish with 9 points. Werner would finish with 7 points.
Scoring summary by quarter:
1st – 2nd – 3rd – 4th – Final
Portland 13 – 14 – 9 – 22 – 58
Ionia 16 – 9 – 9 – 5 – 39
After the game, Portland coach Jason Haid was thrilled with his team’s performance. Haid said, “I will give Ionia credit. They came out and they were ready to play. We got in a little bit of foul trouble early, and Ionia did some things that caused us some problems. The Reams girl is a heck of a player, we had problems with her all night. I was just proud of how our kids took a shot in the mouth early and responded in the second half. We tried to adjust a few things to help inside and limit their dribble penetration. I thought our girls did a good job of adjusting to that. I am just proud of the way we executed down the stretch. We ran a lot of sets and had a lot of kids make a lot of plays.”
Haid added, “I was very pleased with how aggressive we got in the second half. I thought Ashley (Bower) and Ava (Guilford) both had two tough defensive assignments and they were working their tails off. I thought Ava (Guilford) was very aggressive going to the hole tonight, so was Ashley. Both were North and South all night, trying to get to the rim. I am proud of the team. We rallied around each other. We knew everything wasn’t just going to come easy to us and at some point, we would have to battle adversity here in the tournament, and we responded so well.”
The Lady Raiders will face the Alma Panthers in the district semi-finals at Belding on Wednesday night at 7:00. Alma finished their regular season 9-11 overall and 4-10 in the Tri-Valley Conference. The Panthers drew a bye in the first round of district play.
As for Alma, Haid said, “They have a real nice player, the Leister girl (junior Alyssa Leister), she is a stud. We are going to have to account for her. She is kind of like a Kirby (Ionia’s Taylor Kirby) that you have to pay a lot of attention to, and they have a nice shooter on the outside. They are a physical team. They play tough schedule and play in a tough conference. We expect it to be a battle. We are going to take it one game at a time, and we will get ready for them tomorrow.”
In the other opening round game hosted at Belding on Monday night, Central Montcalm defeated Belding 48-44. Central Montcalm will face Shepherd in the other district semi-final contest on Wednesday night at 5:30.