2017-03-09 / Sports

Bushen: Lady Lakers shining bright without a star

A column by Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

The Glen Lake girls are two wins away from representing Leelanau County at the Breslin Center.

I can’t say I’m surprised.

Honestly, I’d be surprised if anyone who has really watched this team over the past two seasons was.

That said, the team’s unselfish brand of basketball continues to impress me.

Maybe it’s just me, but when I think of a “great basketball team,” I don’t think Lebron James and the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers or Steph Curry and the 2015 Golden State Warriors.

I think 2004 Detroit Pistons. Call me a homer, but I guess I just appreciate blue-collar defense, role players and the thought that anyone could lead the team in scoring on any given night.

The same can be said about these Lady Lakers. To be honest, I couldn’t even tell you who their best player is.

Some nights it’s Jennifer LaCross, who leads the team with 10.8 points per game. Simply put, she’s a 5-foot-8 junior who plays like a 6-foot-1 senior — and she’s been a matchup nightmare through four postseason games.

Cases could also be made for 2016 Dream Teamers Kelly Bunek, Sarah Carney and Savannah Peplinski.

Bunek, a senior, does it all. She leads by example, knocks down big shots and makes plays on both ends of the floor. Peplinski wreaks havoc defensively, doesn’t mind contact and has the ability to take over games offensively. Carney, like LaCross, is a fierce competitor in the paint who’s not afraid to take on the other team’s tallest player.

Don’t forget about Allie Bonzelet, who has really blossomed into a complete player this winter, or sophomore Kaitlyn Schaub, who looked unstoppable at times in the second quarter of Tuesday’s win over Lake City.

Individually, these girls are good.

Together, they’re something special.

It didn’t take me long to realize that last year. The way they pressed, forced turnovers and scored in transition put me on the bandwagon late in the season — so much so that I predicted an upset of St. Francis in the district tournament.

That didn’t happen last year, but it did against the No. 2 Lady Glads in Traverse City last Thursday.

You can bet Bunek and Carney, a St. Francis transfer, won’t forget that post-game celebration anytime soon.

Kudos to coach Jason Bradford, his coaching staff and the girls. They’ve been preparing to make this run since last summer — and it shows.

If you’re not sold on the Lady Lakers just yet, consider this: To some degree, the team is still flying under the radar. Glen Lake (21-3, 16-0 Northwest) ran the table in conference play again this year but, to my knowledge, never received a vote in the AP poll (in all fairness, the team went 1-3 in non-conference games this season, albeit against quality teams).

Not to mention that this is a likable bunch off the floor. I chatted it up on Tuesday with one of their teachers, Matthew Soltysiak, who had nothing but good things to say about the girls.

Based on my experiences in postgame interviews, I feel the same way.

Long story short, this Glen Lake team is worth the price of admission. It’s a great team in my book, no matter what happens in the coming week.

I’m not sure how far the girls will go, but it’s safe to say a trip to East Lansing wouldn’t surprise me.

At this point, nothing will.

Return to top