2018-02-10 / Sports

Mackinac Island Lakers Boys Carry Momentum Into Postseason

By Jacob A. Ball


Junior Gabe Hepker races by a Grand Marais defender toward the basket at home Friday night, January 19. (Photograph courtesy of Heather May and the Mackinac Island Public School Photography Club) Junior Gabe Hepker races by a Grand Marais defender toward the basket at home Friday night, January 19. (Photograph courtesy of Heather May and the Mackinac Island Public School Photography Club) The Mackinac Lakers boys basketball team has put together a strong season, and are now headed into their final weekend before the playoffs with a 10-4 record and in third place in the Northern Lights League. Throughout the season, an emphasis on teamwork and communication has allowed for the development of many of the Lakers’ younger players. This is in addition to the performances of their leaders, senior captain Nick Davis and junior Aaron Riggs. In every game this season, one of these two players has led the team in points, however, Coach Justin Gallagher says most impressive is their ability to lead and motivate their less experienced teammates. Davis recorded 1,000 career points for the Lakers in January, and is the first Mackinac Island player to do so since his cousin, Mike Gamble, did so almost a decade ago in 2009.


At left: Mackinac Island’s latest 1,000- point scorer, Nick Davis (center), Saturday morning, January 20, with his cheering section (from left) Owen Morse, Matthew Cowell, brother Vincent Davis, and cousin Madison Gamble. (Photograph by Allison Sehoyan) At left: Mackinac Island’s latest 1,000- point scorer, Nick Davis (center), Saturday morning, January 20, with his cheering section (from left) Owen Morse, Matthew Cowell, brother Vincent Davis, and cousin Madison Gamble. (Photograph by Allison Sehoyan) The Lakers will enter the Northern Lights League tournament Friday, February 16, as the third seed. To claim the title they might need to pull off upsets against Maplewood Baptist and Beaver Island, the only teams to defeat the Lakers this season.

Coach Gallagher notes the improved defensive intensity of his squad, and their ability to sustain a high level of effort throughout games.

“Early on in the [season], they would play tough for a bit, but then they would stop communicating, now they are much better at calling out screens and making the rotation,” he said.

He also has been pleased to see the two athletes take on the leadership role willingly. Occasionally, Davis and Riggs will become so involved with helping their teammates while on the bench that Coach Gallagher feels like he does not need to coach at all. Both of them not only take the time to tell their teammates what they are doing wrong, but actually guide them through the techniques.

“They want everyone to succeed, and it sure is cool to be around,” he said.

The coach hopes they can win their final games against Hannahville Friday, February 9, and Saturday, February 10, before the conference tournament. He said his main goal is to get his players to believe in themselves the same way he believes in them.

“If they put their minds to it, they have a legitimate shot, but it is up to me to get them to keep their heads,” he said.

Season Recap

Following their losses to Maplewood Baptist December 1 and December 2, the Lakers went on a nine-game winning streak. The Lakers picked up their first two wins against the Hannahville Soaring Eagles December 8 and December 9. They won handily 66-42 that Friday night, followed by a 41- 32 victory Saturday morning.

Mackinac Island competed three times during the next week, gaining momentum with a 45-29 defeat of the St. Michael Academy Guardians of Petoskey December 12. The Guardians were playing in their first game as an independent team, and because of that, the Lakers were able to give their younger and less experienced players significant minutes in the game. The starters were productive, even though they were only on the floor for about 10 minutes. Riggs scored a team-high 16 points and recorded seven steals, while Davis added another 15 points, including scoring the first 10 points of the game.

The coach said Leon Se- hoyan and Alex Henlin both played very well in relief, and seventh graders Guyil Mosley and Jack Kaminen contributed in the last game before winter break.

The Lakers did not play again until facing the Paradise Rockets January 12. The team was able to secure a 54-36 victory that night, but the following morning, injuries to the Rockets led to a co-ed scrimmage instead of an official game. The Lakers were led Friday night by Davis with 26 points and 13 rebounds, and Riggs with 17 points. Two of the team’s seventh graders, Aidan Ogle and Guyil Mosley, recorded their first scores of the season. Coach Gallagher was very pleased to see his younger athletes contribute to the final score.

At this time, the team was still in the hunt for a Northern Lights League championship, and Coach Gallagher was optimistic about the outcome of the season. He said if the team could perform well in games against Grand Marais and Beaver Island, the Lakers had a good shot at claiming the title.

The following weekend against the Grand Marais Polar Bears went well, as Davis achieved his 1,000th-point milestone, and the Lakers picked up two decisive wins. Coming into the weekend, the senior needed 49 points, and he scored 31 points January 19 to help his team to a 61-38 victory. That Saturday, the Lakers defeated Grand Marais 47-33, and Davis scored another 18 points to finish the doubleheader with exactly 1,000 points for his career.

Riggs also played a pivotal role in both games, on offense and defense. He was tasked with guarding the best player for Grand Marais, whose impact he limited for the majority of both games.

“He played him like glue for two straight games, and shut him down,” Coach Gallagher said of Riggs.

Riggs scored 11 points Friday night and 14 points Saturday morning.

The Lakers traveled to Beaver Island January 26 for an overnight doubleheader against the Islanders. These games proved to be decisive for determining final standings for the conference, after the boys lost to the Islanders by three points Friday night, 53- 50, and were beaten the next morning by five points, 40-35.

Coach Gallagher said his team struggled to finish plays on offense. On Friday night, the Lakers made only one basket, for two points, during the second quarter, while the Islanders recorded 11. Mackinac Island held an eight-point first quarter lead in the game, but managed only 50 points, even though the team had 60 to 70 shots in the game.

The Lakers were able to get back on track the first weekend in February with another win against Grand Marais, 55-33. They employed a new defense, and stuck to the game plan throughout the night February 2. The team’s defense was only called for three fouls in the entire game, and none in the first half. Coach Gallagher said this was a good sign that they were moving their feet and recognizing offensive motion to avoid the pick.

Riggs led the team with 20 points, and missed only two of his dozen shots in the game. He also had five assists and five steals. Davis missed only three shots, and finished the game with 17 points, six assists, and another five steals. Other contributors include junior Alex Henlin with six points and five rebounds, and seventh grader Aidan Ogle, who scored five points. Coach Gallagher said that might have been Henlin’s best game in two years for the Lakers. He is also pleased to see Ogle find his confidence, as he has been scoring consistently since recording his first points in mid-January.

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