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  • Jim Townsend

Lady Raiders Win District Championship over Central Montcalm

The Portland High school girls’ basketball team traveled to Belding High School on Friday night. This was the teams third trip to Belding this week, but this time it was for a district championship match-up with the Hornets of Central Montcalm.

The Hornets trail to the championship game included a 48-44 win over Belding on Monday, and a 67-31 win over Shepherd on Wednesday.

The Raiders road to the championship game included a 58-39 win over Ionia on Monday, and a 36-24 win over Alma on Wednesday night.

From the opening tip off, the Lady Raider defense caused havoc for the Hornets offense. In the first quarter alone, the Raiders stole the ball from Central Montcalm five times and blocked one shot. Ava Guilford, Breckyn Werner, Alivia Densmore and Grace Sines each had steals in the quarter, and Gulford had the block. Portland’s offense scored 14 points in the quarter while holding the Hornets to only four points.

The Raiders stole the ball five more times in the second quarter, including two by Ashley Bower that she took al the way back for scores. Ava Gruber also had two steals in the quarter. Bower had a hot quarter shooting, scoring 13 points in the second. The Raiders would take a 32-10 lead into halftime.

The Hornets were able to score 10 point in the thirds, but the Raiders were able to maintain a comfortable lead. The third quarter ended with the Raiders up 38-20.

They Raiders were able to maintain their high level of play through the end of the fourth quarter, securing a district championship with a 49-32 victory.

Portland’s Bower would lead all scorers with 24 points. Densmore added nine points while Guilford added eight points.

The Hornets were led offensively by junior Brielle Collins who scored 11 points. Junior Savannah Vissman, who scored 30 points on Wednesday, was held to only three points by the Raider defense.

After the game, Raider head coach Jason Haid said, “We just came out with a purpose tonight. They were really focused in practice yesterday, really focusing on what we had to do to get the win. We knew we had to pressure this basketball team to get a win. If we let them run their stuff, it could be a long night for us. We made a point to get up in them in ¾ court, pressuring the passing lanes, really taking them out of what they wanted to do. And that has kind of been our M.O. all year. Just take people out of what they want to do.”

Haid added, “We didn’t really know what to expect from them defensively. We thought maybe some man, maybe some zone. They came out in the zone and I thought we moved the ball very well. We shot the ball very well, which was a bounce back from Wednesday night when we didn’t shoot it very well. We just kept telling the girls that shots are going to fall. Sometimes we hit them, sometimes we don’t, but the defense has to stay consistent. Our defense has been consistent throughout the tournament. We held a very good (Central Montcalm) team to 32 points, Alma to 24 points. We hung our hat on defense and we said if we are going to win a championship it is going to happen at the defensive end of the floor.”

“Our kids just bought in. Ashley Bower for three straight games defended the best player on the floor, and she frustrated Vissman all night. She is such a quiet, fearless competitor. We are so proud of the way she played, and everyone else. Ava Guilford, Ava Gruber, those three guards do not come off the floor much. They just work their tails off on defense every single possession. Breckyn (Werner) had a good game inside defending. Alivia Densmore had some key buckets for us early on. Just a really good team win for us. Everyone who came off the bench knew exactly what they had to do, and what each player’s tendency were. I am proud of our entire basketball team.”

Scoring summary by quarter:

1st – 2nd – 3rd – 4th – Final

Central Montcalm 4 – 6 – 10 – 12 – 32

Portland 14 – 18 – 6 – 11 – 49

The Lady Raiders move on to regional action and their first contest will be against Frankenmuth at 7:30 on Tuesday at Owosso High School. Frankenmuth has had a remarkable season, being ranked in the state most of the year. They earned their district title with beating Clio 66-13, Birch Run 55-35, and Bridgeport 66-29.

The winner of the Frankenmuth/Portland game will face the winner of Freeland/Chesaning in the regional championship game at Owosso on Thursday night.

Photos by AJ Guilford.

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