2018-03-29 / Sports

Lakers upset top-ranked Falcons in semis

Big 3 buries 10 3-pointers as Glen Lake holds on late
By Jay Bushen
Sports Editor


THREE PLAYERS scored all 62 Glen Lake points in the Class C semifinals at the Breslin Center last Thursday as the No. 5 Lakers upset No. 1 Monroe St. Mary 62-56. The trio — sophomore Reece Hazelton, senior Cade Peterson and junior Xander Okerlund — is pictured from left after the game. THREE PLAYERS scored all 62 Glen Lake points in the Class C semifinals at the Breslin Center last Thursday as the No. 5 Lakers upset No. 1 Monroe St. Mary 62-56. The trio — sophomore Reece Hazelton, senior Cade Peterson and junior Xander Okerlund — is pictured from left after the game. “Thirty-five, my dog weighs more than you!”

The wisecrack directed at Glen Lake sophomore Reece Hazelton from a member of the Monroe St. Mary student section in the early goings of a semifinal showdown at the Breslin Center last Thursday would soon serve as a reminder of an old adage—it’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

They messed with the wrong dog.

Hazelton bit back by burying five 3-pointers—including three in the first five minutes—and finished with 19 points as the underdogs of Glen Lake knocked off the top-ranked and previously unbeaten Falcons 62-56 and advanced to their first final since 1996.

“His emotional leadership is really important to our team, and he just exudes this confidence that we all feed off,” Lakers coach Rich Ruelas said of the 6-foot-5 swingman. “When he’s confident and we’re rolling, it’s fun.”

Hazelton and his fellow members of Glen Lake’s big three, Xander Okerlund and Cade Peterson, had a whole lot of fun from the get-go.

The trio accounted for all 62 Glen Lake points while shooting 19-of-40 from the floor (47.5 percent), a sizzling 10-of-18 from 3-point land (55.6) and 14-of-16 from the stripe (87.5). Okerlund poured in a game-high 23 points; Peterson put up 20.

All three played the entire game, as did lockdown defender Nick Apsey.

“We got a lot of good shots,” said Monroe St. Mary coach Randy Windham, whose team shot an impressive 52.6 percent from the field. “I just felt early we gave up too many 3s and let them get a little comfortable.”

The Lakers led 14-11 after the first quarter and used a 14-4 run to open up a 13-point lead after a Peterson bucket early in the second. A questionable call quickly moved the momentum in the other direction, however, after officials charged Peterson with a technical foul for hanging on the net after a missed alley-oop attempt. The Falcons made both freethrows, hit a 3 on the same possession and added two more free throws after officials charged Okerlund with a foul during the shot.

With seven points in 15 seconds, the Falcons were alive and well.

“I tried to come down but had my right arm on the rim and my left hand got caught in the net ... so I grabbed onto the net and there was a bunch of people right underneath me,” Peterson said. “If I didn’t hit them, I was going to hit my back on the floor, falling about 9 feet. I hung on there, but they called it. It is what it is; we won.”

Monroe St. Mary pulled within two points, making it a 30-28 game on a jumper from Hunter Kegley, but two free throws and a jumper from Okerlund sent Glen Lake into the locker room with a 34-30 lead.

Glen Lake opened the second half on a 9-1 run as Peterson sandwiched six points around Hazelton’s fourth 3-pointer. St. Mary stormed right back, however, and after a Christopher Haut layup, it was 45-41 through three.

Okerlund opened the fourth quarter with a 3, but Mitchel Sherrard answered with a jumper and a triple of his own to make it a 48-46 ballgame. A little more than a minute later, Hazelton let another one fly from the beyond the arc — and buried it. Then, after Kegley answered with a layup, Peterson brought the Glen Lake student section to its feet with a two-handed slam.

The back-and-forth quarter continued with a Haut jumper but, with 3:35 remaining, Glen Lake worked the ball to the reigning all-county Dream Team MVP, Okerlund, who knocked down a crucial 3 to give the Lakers a 56-50 lead. Two Tyler Welch free throws and a Wyatt O’Brien jumper gave the Falcons a chance to knot things up with 52 seconds to play, but a steal and six free throws from Hazelton and Okerlund sealed the deal.

“We expected coming into the game they were going to make their runs and we were going to make ours,” Peterson said. “What I love about this team is that we bounce back no matter what. Even after our two losses to a really good Buckley team, we come back and keep on going. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we’re going to give it our all.”

Ruelas lauded his team’s shot selection and willingness to work the ball inside against a lengthy Monroe St. Mary interior, saying the inside-outside game helped the Lakers create space on the perimeter.

He was also impressed with his team’s mental toughness in what was a dogfight between two of the top teams in the state.

“That was a tough opponent,” he said. “We had to battle through a lot of adversity when things didn’t go our way.”

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