FRUITPORT – Spring Lake coach Bill Core had a feeling that his team would be facing a different Fruitport squad than the one it faced earlier this season.

The Lakers had very little trouble getting past Fruitport in their two regular season contests, winning both games by double-digits.

But the Trojans put it all on the line on Friday night and gave Spring Lake a scare.

The Lakers broke a 35-35 tie with just over two minutes left in the game and used their excellent free throw shooting to defeat host Fruitport 45-37 on Friday night in a Division 2 district championship game.

Spring Lake will advance to regionals to play Grand Rapids Christian at Hudsonville Unity Christian on Monday, while the Trojans completed their most successful boys basketball season with a 15-10 overall record.

“When you play a rivalry team three times you know their strengths and weaknesses and they know yours,” Coach Core said. “We felt that it would be a low scoring game. They were patient offensively and we were lucky to get that slim lead. We figured whichever team had the lead would be able to close it out at the free throw line.”

Spring Lake’s Reid Grimmer goes for a layup. Photo/Jeremy Clark

That is exactly what the Lakers did. They failed to score a field goal throughout the final quarter, but still outscored the Trojans 11-6 down the stretch by going 11-for-16 at the free throw line.

“For us to get out of this district knowing that Fruitport had a strong senior class and knowing Whitehall had a good team, it is quite an accomplishment,” Core said. “You don’t want to look too far ahead, but we are going to soak this in, and I am going to do my homework this weekend.”

The Trojans had no reason to keep their heads down as they compiled one of their best boys basketball seasons in school history.

But Coach Steve Erny wanted to get the win and end an 84-year district title drought for the boys basketball program.

“We are going to remember the positives from this group,” Erny said. “It hurts so bad to come up one game short on something we believed we could get this year. I don’t think many people believed in Fruitport going into this district. I just felt like we deserved to win this one, but they also deserved to win.”

Fruitport’s DayDay Williams drives toward the basket. Photo/Jeremy Clark

Unlike the two regular season games against Spring Lake, the Trojans kept the contest close from start to finish.

“It was tight the whole game,” Erny said. “I think we had some good looks, especially in the first half. The game slowly got away from us when we got cold shooting down the stretch, and when we were not able to drive to the basket to get to the free throw line.”

The opening quarter was low scoring and Fruitport held a tight 8-7 advantage after one. Bode Anspach and DayDay Williams each had three points for the Trojans. Spring Lake’s Zane Stahl had four first quarter points.

Both teams scored 12 points in the second quarter and Fruitport held a 20-19 advantage at the break.

Bode Anspach led Fruitport with seven first half points while Stahl led the Lakers with six.

Fruitport’s Bode Anspach tries to get a shot off between two defenders. Photo/Jeremy Clark

The Lakers gained some momentum in the third quarter, outscoring Fruitport 15-11 to take a 34-31 lead heading into the fourth.

Stahl and Zach Schlepp each had six third quarter points for Spring Lake while the Trojans were led by Andrew Spyke with six.

Fruitport outscored the Lakers 4-1 in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter to tie the contest 35-35.

The Lakers sealed the win by closing out the game on a 10-2 run, with all their points coming from the free throw line.

Schlepp led Spring Lake with a game-high 18 points while Stahl added 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Wren Dephouse added seven points.

The Trojans were led by Spyke with 11 points.