Girls basketball: Lakers trounce Rocori, balanced scoring leads the way
The Detroit Lakes girls basketball team rolled to a 52-28 win over Rocori on Saturday at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse.
DETROIT LAKES – Saturday’s Detroit Lakes girls basketball matinee was exactly what the doctor ordered.
The Lakers (11-3) capped off a hard-earned week with a 52-28 Section 8-3A win over Rocori (5-7). After a 62-42 loss at Alexandria on Tuesday and a turnover-laden 47-30 win at Staples-Motley on Thursday, Detroit Lakes got back on the right foot with a dominating effort over the Spartans.
“We started the game really strong,” head coach Rachel Johnson said. “We got a bunch of good offensive looks (in the first half). We didn’t finish them, but we got them. We stayed really tough defensively. One thing we’ve been talking about this year is starting a game strong. I feel pretty confident in how we came out today. We did a few things differently in pregame, and that seemed to help with being mentally prepared. To have a great defensive half lead into a great offensive half is always nice and makes for a convincing win.”
The Lakers surrendered just eight first-half points. After falling behind 6-5 in the opening five minutes, Detroit Lakes cruised to a halftime lead of 24-8 on a 19-2 run.
Abby Larson led the scoring with eight first-half points. Ella Okeson, who came off the bench following Helena Dagget’s two quick fouls, scored seven of her game-high 12 points in the first 18 minutes.
“I think I just had a lot of confidence today,” Okeson said. “My teammates were moving the ball really well, so it was really easy to get the ball kicked out. The ball was really moving. It was really easy to get those quick shots. You have to step up when one of your starters heads to the bench.”
Karlee Mace added nine points off the bench. The Lakers’ reserves continue to be a big chunk of their nightly scoring efforts.
“To have your sixth and seventh girls be two of your leading scorers, you’re in a good spot,” Johnson said. “To have that kind of depth makes this team really special. Sometimes, putting in a sixth or seventh girl isn’t always like that. Karlee and (Okeson) are big for us. And, to have Ellie Lunde step up as a starter after Jeacee went out, and do it with confidence to play really soundly, is really nice too. We also got to see a little bit of Brooke Markuson. … Having her to be ready for any situation come tournament time will be really nice.”
“I think it’s my job to keep the energy going,” Okeson said. “Yeah, I’m not starting, but if you come off the bench, you need to have energy. Every single one of our bench players is really good at that. We have to keep the energy rolling to make sure the team keeps going.”
Rocori put forth a minimal fight in the second half. The win pushed Detroit Lakes to 3-1 in 8-3A play in their final regular-season section contest. Six Lakers finished with six or more points in a balanced scoring effort.
The Lakers wrapped up their toughest four-game stretch of the 2022-23 season. Road games at Bemidji, Brainerd and Alexandria, and a home game against Pequot Lakes, tested their post players while shorthanded.
Senior Jacee Hauser hasn’t played since the Fergus Falls holiday tournament on Dec. 29 with a foot injury. Lunde and Elle Bettcher have been impressive in the seven games without Hauser.
“They’ve played really well off of one another, and it’s cool to see them coach each other too,” Johnson said. “Coach (Josh) Bettcher does a really good job with them in practice. He does a lot of post breakdowns with them. He works extensively with them on defense as well. He and (Davis Hutchinson) deserve a lot of credit for that. When Jacee gets back into the rotation, it’s only going to make all of them better.”
Now that the meat of the schedule is in the rear-view mirror, few teams pose a threat to the No. 10-ranked Class AAA team on paper. Aside from Tuesday’s trip to St. Cloud and a Feb. 7 game at Pequot Lakes, the Lakers will be heavy favorites the rest of the way.
“We have to keep working hard in practice,” Okeson said. “We have to bounce back, even if we’re tired. We still have to push through the tough games. We just need to keep playing our game. If we keep playing our game, we’ll be just fine.”
Weaker competition does not pose a lack of challenges. This week was a reminder that teams need little motivation to bring their best against a top-ranked opponent.
“This week was hard,” Johnson said. “We went into Staples and had more turnovers than we did against Alexandria. … We have to be prepared every night. Otherwise, teams will make us pay for it. This was a hard week, and we had some of those January blues. To end it on this high note and, hopefully, keep riding that, will be good. Practice tends to get a little lighter and quicker. It becomes more shooting-based. We want to do more team bonding things away from the gym. We’re going to do everything we can to stay prepared for every team left on the schedule.”