Booker defense ends Cavs season

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Lakeland High boys basketball team had its season ended Monday in the first round of the Eastern Region playoffs by a larger and more talented foe, one which was also downright ravenous. Cavalier coach James Jones said Booker T. Washington’s 83-63 triumph was as much about defense as it was about scoring, despite the Bookers’ offensive output.

“Every time we used our quickness to dribble by the first guy and sometimes the second guy going up the court, they’d run the ball down from behind,” Jones said. “Their guys were flying after our kids like they’d stolen the last slice of bread out of their house.”

Booker T. Washington (17-6) played perhaps its best game of the year, but only after the first five minutes. Lakeland (16-9) came out hot, with Justin Watson hitting two three-point shots and a two-point goal to produce an 11-6 lead. The Cavaliers hit four of their first five shots but made only one of their next nine and trailed 19-13 after a quarter.

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Watson sank another three-point shot and two more from inside the arc and David Barnes added his first points with two free throws to cut Lakeland’s deficit to 25-24 four minutes before halftime. However, the Cavaliers made only 12 of 44 field goal attempts and committed 13 turnovers the rest of the night.

“We didn’t do a good job of protecting the ball,” said Jones, whose team finished with 19 turnovers. “Some of that was their pressure and some of it was our self-destruction. We weren’t patient enough and we had five turnovers where we got the ball to a guy in scoring position and he just couldn’t finish the play quickly enough.”

Barnes, the Southeastern District’s player of the year, was held to four points in the first half and 13 in the game, nine fewer than the average with which he led South Hampton Roads scorers this winter. Jones said the senior guard was hampered by sickness and a bad knee and estimated he played at only 80 percent health, but the shadowing of Booker T. Washington’s Quintin Spady was also a major factor.

Spady, who only had three points, made his presence felt by often forcing Barnes to dish the ball off, then making sure it was difficult for the Cavaliers to hit him with a return pass. Watson led Lakeland with 17 points and Tony Smith had 10. Dijon Cuffee had a game-high 22 for Booker T. Washington, which also got 18 points from Maurice Phelps.

“We played teams like Indian River and King’s Fork that were also long and lean and which cover a lot of space,” Jones said. “But give Booker T. credit, because they were relentless out there tonight.”