Cavaliers start season with a win

Published 8:51pm Wednesday, November 28, 2012

By Matthew Hatfield
Correspondent

The Lakeland Cavaliers opened up their 2012-‘13 season on the road on Tuesday night at Chesapeake’s Hickory High School against the Hawks. It marked the coaching debut of Lakeland’s Clint Wright, who starred at the old John Yeates High and spent the past two seasons as the head coach at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy.

Wright’s coaching debut was a rousing success, with Lakeland building a 16-point lead at the half before going on to win, 76-54. The Cavaliers played a total of 12 different players in the first half alone with 10 of them scoring on the night.

The Cavaliers showed a balanced attack, with eight players scoring between five and 15 points, versus a Hickory team that threw different zone defenses at them. Also, the Cavs were able to generate instant offense off of their defense with 15 steals resulting in 25 points, much of that coming during a key stretch in the second quarter when they went on a 20-3 run to break the game open.

“The way we work in practice, I often tell the guys our best game is going to be practice. We try to use practice to simulate what we’ll see in the games and we go hard at each other,” Wright said.

“When I first had this team to try out, I knew something was special about this ball club. I was just hoping they were going to grasp the philosophies of being able to make each teammate better and things of that nature.”

After Lakeland opened the game 8-3, Hickory went on a 7-0 run to claim the lead midway through the first quarter. The Hawks were able to slow the game down and effectively attack the Lakeland defense to get to the free-throw line early on, but when the tempo picked up towards the end of the period, it favored the visitors from Suffolk.

While speeding the pace up and using its athleticism and quickness to overwhelm the Hawks, Lakeland kept the mistakes to a minimum for a season opener. After committing six turnovers in the first quarter, the Cavs had only two during the next 16 minutes of play.

“We want to call it ‘moderately organized chaos,’” Wright said of his team’s style of play. “We want folks to think we’re somewhat out of control, but we’ve got a purpose. The key is just getting the basketball. We really don’t want to put it on the floor when we’re fast-breaking. We want to pass the basketball to the basket and then score as fast as we can.

“In the time-outs, we stressed to relax. It’s not an algebra test or trigonometry; it’s called basketball. It’s something they’ve played all of their lives. Once they decided to relax and play basketball, I think that’s what you actually see.”

Along with steady play out of senior starters Dexter Davis, Samson Worrell and Sevante Williams, Lakeland got lifts from a couple of underclassmen in freshman Deonta Knight and junior Marche’ Everett. Knight, a ninth grader making his first varsity start, finished just two steals shy of a triple-double with 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals.

“He was a phenomenal player on the J.V. level from what I was told. I saw some brilliance in him in practice, very persistent and calm. He plays the game as if he’s a junior or senior. It’s going to be exciting to have this guy for years to come,” Wright said.

Everett added 13 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the free-throw line and grabbed five rebounds. Davis chipped in 10 points, and Mike Piersawl, a senior from Lakeland’s playoffs-level football team, had nine points and six boards.

Lakeland held Hickory to just 2-of-18 shooting from behind the arc. Offensively, the 76 points scored by the Cavs were more than they have had since notching 80 in a district playoff win over Deep Creek in 2009.

Wright is cautiously optimistic about what’s ahead for his team.

“We’ve got to start somewhere, and we’re going to use this as a stepping stone,” he said. “We can’t take anybody light. By no means am I going to let my guys get above and beyond. We’re going to stay humble, but hungry.”

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