2018-01-04 / Sports

Optimism high as Glen Lake boys begin 2018

By Jay Bushen
Sports Editor


“PAST & PRESENT” members of the Glen Lake boys basketball program gather for a post-alumni-game photo in Maple City on Friday. Present members of the program handed their elders a late Christmas present in the friendly exhibition — a two-point defeat. 
Photo: Bob Ewing “PAST & PRESENT” members of the Glen Lake boys basketball program gather for a post-alumni-game photo in Maple City on Friday. Present members of the program handed their elders a late Christmas present in the friendly exhibition — a two-point defeat. Photo: Bob Ewing Glen Lake coach Rich Ruelas continues to preach positivity as his team enters the 2018 portion of its season.

“We’re really trying to embrace a positive culture and not let negativity breed,” said Ruelas, who is now in his third season at the helm. “We’re going to confront it when it happens. That goes for everyone. Positive teams achieve more, positive teams are more connected and positive programs go where they need to go. No energy vampires; we don’t let them complain unless they offer two solutions.”

Fortunately for Laker Nation, there’s been little to complain about thus far.

Glen Lake (3-0, 2-0 Northwest) steamrolled its way through December with a trio of lopsided wins, including two against Leelanau County opponents. Reigning Dream Team MVP Xander Okerlund was as good as advertised as the Lakers knocked off Elk Rapids 69-45, Leland 82-50 and Suttons Bay 75-48.

Okerlund, who is averaging a teamhigh 20 points per game, has been one of many consistent contributors on a team loaded with athleticism.

“I like the unselfish play and team-first attitude,” Ruelas said. “Got to give credit to the seniors who are providing good leadership. It’s trickled down.”

Offensively, a three-headed monster has proven to be a matchup nightmare.

Cade Peterson, a 6-foot-6 senior who joined Okerlund on the Dream Team last season, has provided 13 points per game while a 6-foot-5 sophomore, fellow forward Reece Hazelton, has emerged as a legitimate scorer. Hazelton reached double figures in all three wins, tallying a career-high 19 points in the win over Suttons Bay.

“We sat down with him last year and talked about how he has the potential to be a very versatile player,” Ruelas said. “He’s always had solid post moves, but he had to get a little bit stronger. Now he can play at all three levels. He can play inside and outside and he’s got mid-range game. He’s truly hard to guard. He’s a tough matchup for other teams — and we know that.”

The play of Hazelton will be something to keep an eye on as Glen Lake contends with 2017 Class D runner-up Buckley, Frankfort and others for the Northwest Conference title in 2018.

The title chase will certainly start to heat up on Tuesday as Glen Lake travels to take on Denver Cade and the Bears, who beat the Lakers by 39 at home last year and may be especially motivated after two early season losses. The Bears lost 41-40 to McBain and 63-59 to Kalamazoo Hackett.

Ruelas is far more focused on the energy in his locker room as Glen Lake enters the busy part of its season.

“It’s going to be really important for us to do what we do and come to work every day no matter what,” Ruelas said. “People will praise us and criticize us, but we can’t let either of those things get to us. We’re trying to not let outside noise cloud our vision.”

There’ll be plenty of outside noise in the coming weeks as the Lakers follow up the Buckley showdown with Benzie, Frankfort and St. Francis.

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