Linden — The 2022 portion of Lake Fenton’s varsity girls basketball season began just like how the 2021 portion ended — with an impressive win.

 The Blue Devils fielded a team of just seven players against area rival Linden during Tuesday’s Metro League crossover contest, but the Blue Devils continued their uptempo, pressing and unselfish ways, cruising to a 55-19 road victory.

 “It was different than what we are used to,” Lake Fenton sophomore Savannah Fellenbaum said about playing with seven players. “But we are always up for a challenge. We like to challenge ourselves and push ourselves.”

 Really, the biggest challenge has been for Lake Fenton’s opponents. The only game this season that has been within 20 points was the Blue Devils’ 52-35 home victory against Imlay City, the squad that was expected to be the Blue Devils’ toughest opponent during the 2021 portion of the schedule. Overall, the Blue Devils are 7-0 and are winning their games by an average score of 64.3-27.3, a margin of 37 points. Most of their games end up becoming a continuous mercy clock by sometime in the second half. That actually didn’t happen to Linden. While the 19 points the Eagles scored represents their lowest point total of the season by a long shot, they actually held Lake Fenton to its second-lowest point total of the season and never experienced the mercy clock. Still, the Blue Devils looked as impressive as ever, and doing it against a neighborhood school made it a little more special.

 “It was a big game,” Fellenbaum said. “We were talking about it in the locker room, about it being a big game for us. But they are an opponent, just like everyone else, and we respect them.”

 “We knew Linden was going to be tough,” Lake Fenton varsity girls basketball coach Brian VanBuren said. “There is the rivalry, a lot of these girls know each other. Our second half was better than our first half.”

 The Eagles tried to stick with Lake Fenton as long as they could. They were within 8-6 after a bucket by Megan Widner, but Lake Fenton rattled off the final six points of the first quarter. They came on layups by Fellenbaum, Cola Sisk and Ella Prevost. The Blue Devils (7-0) led 14-6 after one quarter and it felt like Linden was playing a pretty solid game despite the deficit.

 The Eagles (4-3) tried to keep up with Lake Fenton in the second quarter, but the lead eventually grew. A driving layup by Amaya Smith gave Lake Fenton an 18-7 lead with 6:00 left in the half, and Linden would never cut the gap back to single-digits again. A three-pointer by Linden’s Paige Leedle had Lake Fenton’s lead only at 21-10 with 4:10 left in the half, but Fellenbaum responded with a three-pointer of her own about a minute later. A driving layup by Ella Prevost gave Lake Fenton a 28-12 halftime lead.

 In the second half, it was apparent the Eagles were tiring from the Blue Devils’ uptempo and pressing defensive style of play, starting the third quarter with a 10-0 run. It started with a conventional three-point play by Sisk and ended with a layup by Sisk. The Blue Devils led 38-14 and weren’t really able to muster any sort of charge from there.

 The Blue Devils’ offense was paced by Sisk’s 17 points, but all seven Lake Fenton players scored. Prevost netted 11 while Fellenbaum had 10. Smith had six and Emerson Baker chipped in five. Kerrigan Howdeshell had four points but directed the offense with plenty of assists. Lilly Wright had two.

 “I like what we’ve done as a team,” Fellenbaum said. “It hasn’t been an individual thing. We’ve always done it as a team. We push through practices together. We’ve done wind sprints, cheers — we’ve done everything together, and it’s all coming together.’

 Leedle and Kelsey McLennan led the Eagles with six points while Olivia Mawhinney had four points. Widner had three points and Kayla Widner chipped in a point.

 “Lake Fenton could definitely be the best team in the overall Flint Metro League regardless of division,” Linden varsity girls basketball coach Zack Darling said. “I give tons of credit to them. They took it to us pretty good. They are a team full of girls that clearly put in the work, take the game seriously and play the entire game hard, not just turning it on in spurts. ... As the old cliche goes, to be the best you have to beat the best and we aspire to play like Lake Fenton and thus be the best, but clearly we are not there yet.

 “Once again, I think the group of girls we have definitely have the potential, but we all need to buy in, put in the work, trust one another, not point fingers and have one overall goal which has to be winning. When we do all those things in a game everyone watching can see (we can be a good team), but we don’t do them for the full game. We have a lot to work on and hopefully our girls take this as a good learning experience and continue to improve daily.”

 Linden travels to Swartz Creek on Friday while Lake Fenton hosts Owosso.

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