Girls basketball: Detroit Lakes takes care of business over Aitkin in Mid-State Conference matchup
Nine Lakers find the scoresheet in the Lakers' 40-point win over the Gobblers
Growing pains have been the theme of the Detroit Lakes girls basketball season so far. But on Tuesday night at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse, they notched their second win in their last three games.
The Lakers (3-8) outscored the Aitkin Gobblers (6-10) by 20 points in each half on their way to a 59-19 win. Nine Detroit Lakes players found the scoresheet in the dominating victory.
"I like games where everybody gets on the board," Detroit Lakes sophomore Helena Daggett said. "It makes it a true team effort. It makes the game feel more successful when we win."
Despite leading at the half 33-13, the Lakers found themselves in an early 5-0 hole. Daggett scored four of her nine points on the night in an 11-0 run to put the Lakers ahead for good.
"Helena is a huge leader for this group," Detroit Lakes head coach Rachel Johnson said. "I've known that for a while from seeing her play in ninth grade and then JV last year. Seeing her start to buy into that role where she knows she's a leader, and can be that vocal and physical leader out on the court, is excellent to see. We always talk about how coach Bettcher or I can' be out there with you. They have to figure it out for themselves. Helena has embraced that role. She knows she has to be the glue out there."
The 11-0 stretch turned into a 33-8 run for Detroit Lakes. Johnson was able to rotate in her bench fluidly throughout the night while the Lakers held a lengthy lead. Juniors Elle Lunde and Olivia Clark-Burnette came into the game during the Lakers' big run.
"(Lunde) and (Clark-Burnette) are coming along really quickly," Johnson said. "I think they have a lot of confidence from both of them playing half of the JV game. It kind of gets them warmed up and ramped up. They have a different role on the JV team. They're starting to translate that leadership role from JV to varsity."
Despite winning the first half by 20 points, the Lakers weren't satisfied with their play. They made it a point to limit turnovers and play sound on defense in the final 18 minutes.
"The girls talked about playing at our level and not down to their level," Johnson said of the halftime adjustments. "They gave Aitkin all of the props, and so did I. Aitkin came out ready to play. They executed it really well. They're just not deep enough to keep that going. The girls expect more of themselves, and the coaches expect more. They do a good job of holding themselves accountable."
Detroit Lakes didn't allow a point until 8:06 was left on the running-time clock in the second half. It's the kind of win that could give the Lakers a boost with some important games down the stretch.
"This can definitely build the girls' confidence, but I appreciate that they know the first half wasn't good," Johnson said. "They didn't do a lot of the things that we talked about, and they came out flat. They talked about it at halftime, listened to the coaches and went out for the second half, and played much better. Getting ready for an Alexandria or a Park Rapids or a Bemidji–these girls are willing to get personnel figured out."
Following Thursday's road game at Alexandria (7-7), the Lakers have a pair of games against sub .500 teams, including Monday's road showdown against Bemidji (4-7). They are eager for another crack at the Lumberjacks after Jackie Johnson's 40-point game on Dec. 15 stunned the home crowd in the Ralph Anderson Gym.
"It was good to get another win under our belt," Daggett said. "We have a huge stretch of games coming up, so it was good to get this win. We all try to bring it during practice, and we all try to work together so we can get in the mindset to go into these next couple of games strong."
If the Lakers look to string some wins together, they'll need to keep seeing girls step up in their roles. Sophomore Ella Okeson, who began the year on the bench, has elevated herself to the starting five.
"We knew that (Okeson) was definitely going to be in the starting lineup mix eventually," Johnson said. "Due to different injuries and illnesses, she's had to step into that role earlier than we expected, but she's stepped in well. She understands that she has a lot to learn and is pretty raw. She's great at asking questions and making sure she delivers in the capacity we expect her to. Even tonight, she was self-aware that she didn't have a good first half. She fixed that and had a much better second half."
The Lakers are now 2-1 in Mid-State Conference play with decisive wins over Staples-Motley (3-13) and Aitkin.
"It's good to get some practice and games like this so we can work on the things we need to work on," Daggett said. "We have some things we need to get better at to prepare for some of the upcoming games, so it was good to see us all work together and make everything fit."