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Spring Lake stops Whitehall’s magical basketball season in district semifinal overtime thriller

Unbeaten Vikings see season end at 22-1, drop heartbreaking district semifinals OT game for second straight year.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

MUSKEGON — There is a reason people say you can throw out the records once state tournament play begins.

People who know basketball, know how dangerous and tournament-savvy coach Bill Core’s Spring Lake teams can be. People who know sports, know that all magical rides — such as Whitehall’s 2023-24 season — come to an end.

With physical team defense designed to pester Camden Thompson and fantastic free-throw shooting, Spring Lake stopped Whitehall’s dream season, 73-61 in overtime, in a Division 2 district semifinal thriller Wednesday night at Orchard View High School.

Spring Lake (12-12) will go after its second straight district championship at 7 p.m. Friday when the Lakers take on OK Blue Conference and neighboring rival Fruitport (7-17).

Last year, Spring Lake beat Fruitport in the district finals at Fruitport, 45-37. That was after Fruitport knocked off Whitehall in the district semifinals, 77-69 in overtime.

That district semifinals defeat in the 2022-23 season fueled this Whitehall squad, which for the first time since the 1960s completed an undefeated regular season at 22-0. The Vikings captured a fourth straight West Michigan Conference title along the way.

Whitehall opened this season with a 50-44 victory at Spring Lake on Dec. 5. That game and Wednesday’s rematch featured a reversal of fortunes, as the Vikings closed out a tight game with free throws in the first meeting and the Lakers did the same on Wednesday.

Spring Lake shot an eye-popping 27-of-31 from the free-throw line. Lakers senior Karson George was clutch with a perfect 14-of-14 showing from the line, all in the fourth quarter and OT combined.

George finished with 21 points, while senior Zach Schlepp scored a game-high 24 points for Spring Lake despite suffering a lower-leg injury early in the game that he played through. Senior Eli Morrison scored 12 for the Lakers, while junior Jaden Core had seven points.

For Whitehall, Thompson finished with a hard-earned 18 points, 10 of them in overtime. The 6-foot-5 junior standout also had 11 rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Junior Kal Koehler scored a team-high 22 points to go with four rebounds to pace the Vikings’ scorers. Seniors DJ Jamison and Ca’Mar Ready added nine points apiece for Whitehall.

Whitehall had a shot to win the game at the end of regulation when Thompson drove from the top of the key and kicked a pass out to the wing, but the 3-point shot was off the mark. The teams went to the extra period tied at 51.

Whitehall scored first in the four-minute overtime on Thompson’s drive from the wing and shot off the glass for a 53-51 edge.

The turning point came with under two minutes remaining in overtime, when a Whitehall pass was stolen near midcourt by Core, who scored on a reverse layup to put Spring Lake up 55-53. On the ensuing baseball inbound pass to Whitehall’s Kyle Stratton near midcourt, Spring Lake’s Wren Dephouse and Stratton collided going for the ball. The fall was whistled on Stratton, his fifth of the game.

Spring Lake never looked back. Whitehall spent the rest of the game chasing, but the Lakers went 12-for-14 from the free-throw line in OT.

Photos by Shayla Hardy for CatchMark

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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