Lakeland sophomore Kenya Latham looks for a rebounding opportunity against Oscar Smith during Thursday night's playoff deciding which team would qualify for the district tourney. Latham had eight assists and eight rebounds as the Cavaliers won 50-38 at King's Fork High School.

Cavs earn playoff spot

Published 9:38pm Friday, February 8, 2013

The third time was the charm for the Lakeland Cavaliers on Thursday night against Oscar Smith. The teams’ third meeting this season was needed to break a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the district. Trailing by one, the Cavs rode a 17-4 fourth quarter right into the postseason, winning 50-38 at King’s Fork High School.

“I don’t think anybody can beat us three times in a season,” Lakeland freshman forward Jaquan Yulee said.

The two previous games against the Tigers were both losses for Lakeland, 52-48 on Dec. 14 and 58-41 on Jan. 29.

“In watching the tapes from the last two games, I wanted to do something different,” Cavaliers head

coach Clint Wright said.

Wright felt Oscar Smith would be prepared for some of its defensive schemes.

“But we didn’t do any of those defenses,” Wright said. “We only ran those things that were relatively new, and I thought it caught them off guard.”

A major motivation for changing up the defense was the prior performances of Oscar Smith senior guard Marcell Moss. In the Cavaliers’ and Tigers’ last two match-ups, Moss scored 18 and 28 points, respectively.

Wright alternated between two different defensive configurations Thursday night: the one-three-one and the box-and-one. The first scheme places one defender up top, three in the middle, and one under the hoop. In the box-and-one, four players play a two-two zone defense, forming a box, and the fifth player covers the other team’s biggest threat.

“We have one guy just sell-out defensively, plays one player the whole game, doesn’t (take) regard for any baskets, just face-guarding the player, not letting him get the basketball at any given time,” he said. “Wherever he goes, you go.”

That Lakeland player guarding Moss was junior guard Markese Wright. He limited Moss to five points Thursday night, with some assistance from senior guard SeVeante Williams.

One of the reasons Coach Wright and his assistants picked Markese Wright for the box-and-one job was his background in another sport.

“The football mentality, the defensive back, the running back, the physical nature — we felt that that’s something that he really brings to us,” Wright said. “And of all the games that we’ve played, this is one of the best defensive efforts that I have ever seen. And even when he asked to come out, it’s like, ‘Man, you’ve got to suck it up, you’ve got to suck it up’ — we gave him water, we gave him Gatorade — and he did just that, and he even scored a few points too. So, (I’m) very pleased at the effort that Markese displayed on this evening.”

In the third quarter, the Cavaliers had to substitute some players due to fatigue, and they temporarily abandoned the new defenses. The result was a 22-point spurt by the Tigers that put them in the lead, 34-33, entering the fourth.

“We just couldn’t stop that wave from happening,” Wright said. “But again, we went with the one-three-one and then we played the box-and-one for the rest of the fourth quarter and seemingly it worked very well for us.”

Oscar Smith only scored four points for the rest of the game.

“Coach has been telling us the whole day, ‘Either go hard or go home,’ so, I guess we had to go hard,” Yulee said.

Freshmen forwards Yulee and Deonta Knight and sophomore guard Kenya Latham illustrated why Coach Wright is so excited about the future at Lakeland. Yulee and Knight led the Cavs with 16 points apiece, Knight had 10 rebounds and Latham added eight assists and eight boards.

“It’s an exciting time, and we’re excited to be the eighth representative in the Southeastern District tournament,” Wright said. “And we’re going to go play Great Bridge and we’re going to play basketball there. We’re not going to back down.”

The Cavaliers (9-15, 6-13), playing in the district tourney for the first time since 2010, traveled to Great Bridge Friday evening to face the top-seeded Wildcats in the quarterfinal round.

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