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  • Andrew Seavey

Thelen sisters roll, lead Portland girls basketball to win against Holt

Malia and Lilly Thelen have blossomed into two of the Lansing area’s best while leading Portland to their first 6-0 record since the 2021-2022 season.

The sister connection shined bright yet again for the Raiders, who relied on the Thelen tandem for 37 of their 55 points, in their 55-45 victory over Holt in Thursday night’s showdown.

Lilly struggled to find an edge early, scoring just two points in the first half, but the sophomore exploded in the second half scoring 17 of her 19 points to lead the Raiders. Her older sister, Malia gave Portland’s offense momentum early and sprinkled in timely shots down the stretch on her way to 18 points.

“Malia and Lilly really paced us offensively,” Raiders Head Coach Jason Haid said. “They led us tonight. They did a great job moving the ball, getting ahead, finishing layups, and hitting free throws.”

Holt, now 4-2, kept the game close for three quarters by changing their defensive looks and pressuring the Raiders.

“They were pressing, they were in man, they were in zone, so it kind of threw us off a little bit,” Haid said. “We were able to settle down in the second half and make the easy pass and get ahead and make layups.”

The Rams challenged the Raiders with a full court press in the first quarter, but the Raiders handled the trap with ease moving the ball to the paint and converting on the open looks.

Malia, Lilly, Paige Spedoske, Erica Russman, and Summer Stopczynski all contributed to Portland’s 15-11 lead early.

Stopczynski effort in the post carried the Raider’s momentum into the second quarter after she scored on a contested left-handed layup and grabbed a key offensive rebound on the Portland’s next possession, leading to a Spedoske bucket.

“I thought Summer Stopczynski had another solid game,” Haid said. “She’s been one of our more consistent players. She has been showing up every night.”

The Raider’s stout defense irritated Holt, as Portland opened the second quarter on an 8-0 run.

Despite finding themselves down 23-11 midway through the second quarter, the Ram’s answered the call, battling back into the game on two consecutive three-point shots from Allison Metzger.

At halftime, the Raiders held a slim, 23-22 lead.

Portland opened the second half dominating on both sides of the ball, with their defense turning into points.

On back-to-back defensive possessions the Thelen sisters took turns forcing turnovers, which resulted in a layup for Malia and a corner three for Lilly. Holt responded to the Raider’s quick start by using a 1-3-1 zone, which slowed Portland’s momentum until midway through the fourth quarter.

The Ram’s used their full court press, but it found little success due to the Raider’s moving the ball well in transition.

“I thought that when they brought pressure in the full court, we were able to turn that into an

advantage for us,” Haid said. “We were able to get some two on one’s and convert on some layups late in the game. I thought that really was the difference maker late in the third and early in the fourth where they were pressing, and we were able to get ahead and get some layups and kind of break their back a little bit.”

The Ram’s gave Portland a new defensive look in the fourth quarter, using a 1-3-1 zone. It kept the Raider’s off balance, as they were unable to score in the first two and a half minutes.

Holt was unable to take advantage of the Raider’s scoring slump, and eventually Lilly Thelen gave Portland the firepower they needed by scoring a right-handed layup in transition. On the next possession Malia sank a corner dagger extending Portland’s lead to 41-35.

The sister duo sealed the deal down the stretch converting on 10 of 12 free throw attempts down the stretch.

Stopczynski capped off the night with six points and Russman finished with four for the Raiders.

The unscathed Raiders head into the holiday break with wins over tough non-conference opponents including Gull Lake and East Lansing, along with Holt.

“We want to play the best teams in the area, and we want to be as prepared as we can be,” Haid said.

“We have a tough conference and a really tough district with the defending state champions (Lansing Catholic) in both, and so we know we have to prepare ourselves to do battle with them.”

The Raider’s will return to action on Jan. 5th against CAAC White newcomer, Lakewood.


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