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Braves stand too tall for Cavaliers

Michael Steingold

Despite coming within one point of the lead in the third quarter, the Lakeland Cavaliers boys’ basketball troop lost a heartbreaker in the fourth quarter to Indian River on the road in Chesapeake, 76-65.

The Cavaliers offense put three players in double digits, J. J. Cook (18 points 8 rebounds), Jaleel Nelson (18 points), and Darren Copeland (13 points), but it wasn’t enough to impede the onslaught of the Braves offense.

Facing a height deficit under the basket, the Lakeland defense was only but so effective, as Indian River pulled down nearly every rebound. The Cavalier defense also left open the corners of the floor, allowing many open jumper looks for the Braves.

But the greatest pitfall for Lakeland was piling up 20 team fouls, effectively giving the Braves a chance to go 17-for-31 from the line, mostly in the second half.

After losing the jump-ball to start the game, the Cavaliers chose a peculiar strategy- litter the basket with a barrage of 3-point attempts. This seemed to work, as the end of the first quarter found Lakeland still in the game, down 20-14 on four 3-pointers and two foul shots.

The strategy seemed to force far too many bad shots, though, and slowly its effectiveness dwindled. It wasn’t until midway through the second quarter that the Cavaliers even put up points in increments of two.

The teams appeared matched through the second quarter, thanks to the aggressive Lakeland defense, and a 10-0 Lakeland run midway through the period, which kept the Cavaliers alive, but down 35-28, at the half.

In the third quarter, the action on the floor heated up, as deep into the period Copeland was fouled and converted all three shots given to him. Lakeland stopped the Indian River offense, then Cook scored to put the Cavaliers behind by only a basket at 45-42.

The teams continued to match baskets until Indian River scored six straight points in the final minute of the quarter. Cook answered for Lakeland with a steal and breakaway lay-up at the buzzer, getting his team to 55-49 going into the final period.

In the fourth though, Indian River dominated the game, as Lakeland continued getting whistled for fouls. Scoring five unanswered points in the final 30 seconds, Indian River walked away with what had potential to be a close game, beating Lakeland with a final score of 76-65.

For the game, the Cavaliers hit seven three-pointers, with Nelson connecting for three of them.

Lakeland (13-6, 8-5) remains alone in fourth place in the Southeastern District with three regular season games remaining.

The Cavaliers will host third-place Deep Creek next Friday evening (Feb. 3).