The Portland High School girls’ basketball team returned to Belding on Wednesday night to face the Panthers of Alma in the district semi-finals. Despite a very slow start offensively, with both teams scoring a combined six points in the first quarter of play, the Lady Raiders prevailed and earned a trip to the district championship by defeating Alma 36-24.
The first quarter saw several shots missed by both squads and the Raiders would end the quarter with a 4-2 lead.
Scoring would pick up in the second quarter of play. The Raiders also claimed rebounding superiority over the Panthers and took a 17-8 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter of play, the Panthers started to show a bit more intensity. Alma outscored Portland 9-6 in the third frame, but poor free throw shooting by the Panthers allowed the Raiders to finish the third with a 23-17 lead.
The fourth quarter of play would basically come down to the Raiders success from the free-throw line. With Alma players frequently fouling in hopes to get the ball on errant free-throws, the Raiders left little opportunity converting on nine of 10 free throws in the final quarter alone. Four by Ashley Bower, two each by Ava Gruber and Shalyn Dziewiatkowski, and one by Ava Guilford.
The Lady Raiders would hold on to secure a 36-24 victory and a trip to the district finals.
Free throws were indeed a huge factor in the game. Alma would end up one of seven while Portland would finish 11 of 13.
Portland’s Bower would lead all scorers with 13 points. Alivia Densmore and Breckyn Werener each scored six points for the Raiders.
Alma was led offensively by freshman Jordan Cleveland with nine points and junior Alyssa Leister with six points
Scoring summary by quarter:
1st – 2nd – 3rd – 4th – Final
Portland 4 – 13 – 6 – 13 – 36
Alma 2 – 6 – 9 – 7 – 24
After the game Raider head coach Jason Haid was not overly impressed with his team’s performance. Haid said, “I don’t think we played particularly well. But at this time of the year, it doesn’t really matter if you get the win.”
He said, “I thought we almost seemed like we were a little jet lagged out there after that big win on Monday. Not really ready to play, but we did just enough to get the win. We didn’t shoot particularly well, but we did just enough. We took advantage of quite a few different match-ups inside which helped us because we were not shooting well from the outside. I will give it to Liv (Densmore) and Breckyn (Werner) and those guys down low, they had some good buckets. And Ashley (Bower) played pretty good up top. She attacked the rim very well. I thought as a collective whole we were a little flat tonight, and if we want to win a district championship, we have to be ready to play an entire game.”
Portland will face the Hornets of Central Montcalm on Friday night in the district finals. The Hornets defeated Shepherd 67-31 in heir semi-final contest.
As for Central Montcalm, Haid said, “It is an excellent program. They went 20 and 0 in the regular season the last two seasons. They have got some kids back that went to a quarter-final last year. They have a great player in (Savannah) Vissman, she scored close to 30 tonight. She is a player and they are going to be well coached and ready to play. We are looking forward to the challenge.”
Tip-off for the district championship will be at 7:00 on Friday at Belding High School.
Photos courtesy of AJ Guilford.