It’s one thing to win a championship, but it’s another to win two championships in a row.
Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes is now one of the few teams that can claim that distinction.
The Lakers (22-5) claimed their second consecutive Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Class D state title Saturday, March 19 with a 53-35 victory over Bark River Harris in the state finals at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
It was a triumphant end to a season in which Our Lady overcame adversity, illness and injuries to go along with the pressure of being a defending state champion.
“This group of girls is very special. They know how to win and they believe in each other,” said Our Lady Head Coach Steve Robak. “No matter how the day is going, they never doubt that we can win and when you combine that attitude with players that have great basketball skills, it makes them a very good team.
“It also makes it easy to coach,” he added. “They’ve made us look very good, but they deserve the credit for what they’ve accomplished.”
Against Bark River Harris, Our Lady took a 13-9 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 28-20 lead at halftime.
The Lakers then turned up the heat on the Broncos and jumped out to a 46-31 lead at the end of the third quarter and didn’t look back in the fourth, as they emerged victorious by an 18-point margin.
Junior Carlee Cottrell, who transferred from Auburn Hills Oakland Christian before the season, led the Lakers with 16 points and 4 rebounds in winning her first state title.
Meanwhile, sophomore Ava Doetsch had 13 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, while fellow sophomore Lexie Robak had 11 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals.
Senior Lauren Robak had 9 points, 6 rebounds, 8 steals and 3 assists in her final game in an Our Lady jersey.
Our Lady’s half-court press was very successful, as it forced 30 turnovers by the Broncos that led to 23 points at the other end.
“Lauren put a lot of ‘on the ball’ pressure at the point and our other girls did a great job of getting into the passing lanes and making it very difficult for them to get into the offensive sets,” Coach Robak said.
Prior to the state final, Our Lady faced a big challenge in taking on undefeated Central Lake and the state’s reigning Miss Basketball, Jasmine Hines, in a Class D semi-final.
But, the Lakers pulled through and defeated the Trojans, 52-41, on Thursday, March 17.
Our Lady was in trouble early against Central Lake as it trailed 10-8 at the end of the first quarter and 23-19 at halftime.
“In the first half, our girls didn’t execute our defensive plan the way we hoped to, but in the second half, they made the adjustment and it paid off,” Coach Robak said. “We tried to allow the pass to Hines up the floor and deny all of her teammates the ball, to force her to have to dribble the entire length of the floor. We knew she didn’t have great stamina and that eventually it would wear her down and force her to make some mistakes.”
The strategy paid off, as Our Lady took a 31-28 lead at the end of the third quarter and Hines ended up with 7 turnovers and fouled out early in the fourth quarter.
Our Lady took advantage of Harris’ absence with key baskets down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
Lauren Robak finished with 18 points, including 8-of-10 free-throw shooting, along with 10 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks; while her sister, Lexie Robak, had 13 points and 8 rebounds and Cottrell finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
“I give credit to our entire defense, especially Lauren, who guarded Hines the entire night,” Coach Robak said. “Lauren was very tired after the game because she had to bang with Hines in the post the entire night, but she did a nice job in making it difficult on her up the floor.”
Hines finished with 23 points for the Trojans (26-1).
Our Lady began the week with a 61-36 victory over upset-minded Bay City All Saints in a Class D state quarter-final at Waterford Mott on Tuesday, March 15.
Lauren Robak finished with 18 points while Cottrell had 17 points.
Bay City All Saints finished with a record of 10-15.