BEAVERTON — Christmas is a time for giving, and the Houghton Lake girls basketball team has done that. But the Bobcats really haven’t felt the holiday spirit through their first five games in getting off to a 1-4 start.
That includes back-to-back losses to Gladwin (47-43 on Dec. 8) and Beaverton (55-51 on on Dec. 15) in the Jack Pine Conference. Neither was anything the Bobcats should hang their head about, since both the Flying G’s and Beavers are undefeated, 3-0 in the conference and 4-0 overall.
Houghton Lake was scheduled to make its third straight road trip of the season this Wednesday for another Jack Pine contest, this one against Sanford Meridian Early College. Meridian was 1-2 in the league and 2-3 overall entering the week.
Despite its lack of success on the scoreboard, Houghton Lake coach Greg Kauffman had no complaints.
“There’s no doubt we’ve improved in the last week,” Kauffman said. “The numbers tell the story. We’ve had three good games in a row. Unfortunately, we’ve only won one of them. We lost in the last minute to Gladwin.
“We lost the Beaverton game in the last quarter again. There were things that were out of our control. What’s hurting us right now is the last quarter in general. The last three games we’ve given up 51 points in the fourth quarter.”
Another big issue has been turnovers in the final eight minutes, as the Bobcats have struggled to maintain possession of the ball and permitted the opposition to get back into the game.
Houghton Lake has been a good fourth quarter team in the last three years, and this penchant for giving up leads in the final period has been particularly disturbing for Kauffman as he tries to come up with ways to fix the problem.
“It’s things we can control, so that’s a good thing,” said Kauffman. “On the other side, man, it’s frustrating when it’s the same thing over and over in the fourth quarter. Against Beaverton we missed 28 shots in the paint, and we lose by four points.
“Like I said, we’re playing better. But, there’s no moral victories. We should be sitting here, at worst, 3-4. But, we’re not taking care of some of the things we should be doing. It’s stuff we work on every day.”
It would be one thing if teams were doing something the Bobcats haven’t prepared for, or seen before.
But, it’s really not.
“It’s just at times trying to play too fast,” said Kauffman. “Other times, it’s not making an extra pass to the open player instead of trying to go up against two people. We’ve had a really tough schedule to start the season.
“We’ve played really good teams, and competed with everybody but Clare (a 51-23 loss), and that was just a really poor shooting night. In the fourth quarter, when you’ve got the lead or you’re in the game, you’ve got to make those plays down the stretch.
“You’ve got to make the right pass, you can’t give up a layup on defense. Those are just the little things we’ve got to fix. But, there’s no question the team from the first game has made a huge jump. I’m happy about that.”
The Bobcats opened the Beaverton game with a 16-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, and maintained a 29-20 cushion at the half. But the Beavers came back, outscoring the Bobcats, 15-12 in the third quarter to cut Houghton Lake’s lead down to 41-35. Houghton Lake was outscored, 20-10 in the final eight minutes.
Macy Bisballe shot 7-of-17 from the floor (41 percent) and led the Bobcats with 21 points. Lainey Meigs also scored in double figures, contributing 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting (50 percent). Lexi Blanchard and Alexis Souder each added six, and Taylor Nutt chipped in with three.
The Bobcats were 20-of-58 from the floor overall (34 percent), and made 10-of-13 attempts from the free throw line.
Houghton Lake had 25 rebounds for the game, with Nutt leading the Bobcats with seven. Bisballe grabbed five and Sarah Barnes four. Blanchard distributed five assists as the top playmaker. She also picked off five steals to lead the defense, while Meigs and Souder each had four thefts. The Bobcats had 15 steals as a team, but also committed 20 turnovers.
It followed a pattern that had been set in the Gladwin game, when the Bobcats also had a first half lead (28-22) and then were outscored in the second (21-19). The Bobcats led, 13-10 at the end of the first and outscored the Flying G’s, 15-12 in the second.
But, it was the third quarter of that game that really turned the tide. Houghton Lake could muster only four points over eight minutes, while the Flying G’s had 10. The Bobcats were outscored, 15-11 in the fourth.
Bisballe was the leading scorer for the Bobcats with 13 points, Blanchard added 10, Souder popped in seven, Meigs contributed six, Nutt had four, Barnes finished with two and Ellie Connett chipped in with a free throw. The Bobcats shot 18-of-35 from the floor, and 6-of-13 at the charity stripe.
Houghton Lake had 31 rebounds as a team, with Nutt leading the way with eight. Barnes pulled down six, Bisballe five and Blanchard four. Souder led the Bobcats with four assists, while Blanchard and Nutt each had three and Barnes two. Bisballe, Blanchard and Souder each had three steals while Nutt and Meigs had two apiece.
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