Warriors pull out 65-63 victory

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 7, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

In a just world, both Suffolk high school teams would have won on Friday night. Were teams reward by effort, rather than results, Lakeland and Nansemond River (NR) would have battled to a tie, then shared the Southeastern District title.

Unfortunately, things don’t always work out the way they should; one team had to fall. In this case, it was the host Cavaliers. After the Warriors missed seven of eight free throws in the final 18 seconds (two of which would have put the game away), Jeremiah Billups missed a jumper at the buzzer that would have sent the game to overtime, giving the Warriors a 65-63 win and at least a share of their fourth consecutive district title. The Warriors can win the title outright with a victory Tuesday at Hickory.

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In front of a jam-packed crowd that made an already sweltering gym even steamier, the teams battled it out from buzzer to buzzer in every quarter. The Cavaliers held the advantage for much of the first half, though their lead never got wider than six points.

Josh Russell, one of seven Cavaliers playing his &uot;Senior Night&uot; game, hit his third three-pointer of the night to give Lakeland a 31-27 advantage with two minutes left in the half, but Keith Josey banked home his first points of the night and Marquie Cooke broke through for a layup to tie the score with :52 to go. Mike Camp hit a jumper for Lakeland and Dennis Conley a free throw for NR to end the half with the Cavaliers holding a 33-32 lead.

Conley gave his team their first lead since the first quarter with a jumper 44 seconds into the third period, but Russell and Eric Ruffin swished three-pointers for a 39-36 lead. After each team scored six consecutive points, Cooke knocked in five in a row to go up, 47-45. Cavaliers Kenny Reid hit a jumper and Cooke a free throw, and Ruffin took an assist from Tyrone Parker to score with three seconds left, reaffirming Lakeland’s one-point edge.

Neither team scored more than three consecutive points for the with three minutes of the fourth quarter, but Josey and Cooke swished four free throws for a 60-56 lead with 4:33 on the clock. Lakeland’s Cory Davis and Cooke each hit a jumper, and Ruffin fired an assist to Russell, who sank yet another long shot to get within 62-61 with 1:52 left.

The Warriors called timeout, but Camp stole an inbound pass and tossed to Ruffin, who broke away for a layup that gave the Cavaliers the lead and sent the gym into hysterics. Josey was fouled with a minute left, and managed to ignore the thunderous audience noise to hit both free throws.

With :54 to play, Lakeland called timeout. Reid inbounded to Ruffin, who passed to Russell. Russell pushed a pass to Davis, who found himself trapped in the corner, and called timeout with :33 left.

Russell inbounded to Ruffin, who was fouled by Cooke. Because it was only NR’s fifth team foul, Lakeland took the ball out again (seven team fouls gives a squad a one-and-one, and 10 gives them two shots). Ruffin missed a jumper, and Cooke rebounded with 19 seconds to play.

He missed both shots, but grabbed his own rebound, and was fouled again with :16 left. This time, he made one of the shots, and a Lakeland pass went astray, into the arms of NR’s Fred Spratley. He was fouled with :08 to go, and missed both shots. Eric Joe pulled down the rebound for NR, and was fouled one second later. Both of his shots went off course, and Mark Plenty grabbed the rebound for Lakeland.

He was fouled with five seconds to play, and Reid took the ball out from the left side. He passed to the center of the court to Ruffin, who tossed the ball to Billups on the right sideline. Billups hurried inside the Warriors three-point line and fired up a jumper. It hit the back of the rim and clanged off. Spratley hauled in the rebound, and, with it, the victory.

Cooke led the game with 33 points. Ruffin had 19 for Lakeland, and Russell 18. The Cavaliers will play their final regular-season game Tuesday at Oscar Smith. Times and locations for the district tournament had not been announced at press time.

The girls game between the schools was slightly less eventful, although both teams gave it their all throughout. After the Lady Warriors fought their way to within 34-33 with 6:47 on the clock, Sharde Brown, Alecia Harris and Shadonna Cox led Lakeland to a 55-43 led, giving the Lady Cavaliers a season sweep of their crosstown rivals. Harris led Lakeland with 21 points, with Stephanie Adams the top Lady Warrior with 14.

Both teams will play at home Tuesday, with Lakeland host Oscar Smith and the Lady Warriors Hickory.