Cavs can’t hold back Bruins

Published 10:28 pm Wednesday, December 12, 2012

By Matthew Hatfield


Battling for position in the Southeastern District standings, Lakeland High School’s boys’ basketball team took on the Western Branch Bruins on the road Tuesday. Lakeland battled back from 10 points down to take a brief lead in the third quarter, but ultimately, fell short 65-60 to the Bruins.

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After four straight wins to start the season, Lakeland has now dropped three in a row. The latest loss probably stings the most, given that they scored 15 more points from behind the three-point line than Western Branch and had fewer turnovers, causing 20 with their scrappy, persistent defense.

“I think what separated us tonight were the little things. The only thing we didn’t do correct was score enough points. We had great hustle, great opportunities, but some of the possessions we just didn’t value,” first-year Lakeland coach Clint Wright said.

“There were a couple crucial baskets that we missed that I think would’ve gotten us where we need to be, and when we took the lead I thought that put a little pressure on Western Branch, but they were able to push the basketball up the court and get an easy bucket.”

Lakeland took a 6-3 lead to start the game, getting great spacing offensively and high percentage looks from different spots on the floor. Western Branch then scored 13 unanswered points, only to watch the Cavaliers go on a 5-0 spurt to close the first period with the Bruins ahead, 16-11. The two teams combined for 12 personal fouls in the opening period.

It was a back-and-forth second quarter, with the Cavs getting three-point field goals from senior guard Sevante Williams and junior forward Marche’ Everette to close the deficit to 32-29 at the half. Lakeland made their first four shots from three-point range to start the game, while Western Branch made only one out of nine attempts from deep for the evening. Where the Cavs got hurt badly was on the free-throw line and in the rebounding department.

Western Branch out-rebounded Lakeland 22-15 in the first half, with nine offensive rebounds resulting in several second-chance points. The Bruins also converted 26 of 40 foul shots, compared to just 6-of-15 shooting in that area for the Cavaliers.

Freshman Jaquan Yulee, a standout at linebacker for Lakeland’s football team, ignited the Cavaliers in the third period with a dunk and a block, leading them to a 42-40 advantage at the 3:40 mark. Western Branch responded with a 10-2 run to close the quarter, leading 50-44.

Stretching that lead to 10 with just 6:30 to play, the Bruins appeared to have bagged the game. But Lakeland was able to chip away at the lead to the point where they only trailed by three with 26.2 seconds remaining. The Bruins made their final four attempts at the charity stripe, while Lakeland couldn’t sink another three-pointer.

“Iron is going to sharpen iron, and we’ve got to simulate some of those crucial moments more in practice with each and every player in practice,” Wright said. “Right now, it’s the little things we have to fix, which are correctable, that are the difference in our ballgames.”

Leading the way for Lakeland in the scoring column with 16 points was Williams, who made three shots from three-point distance. He also contributed four assists. Yulee contributed a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Another freshman, Deonta Knight, added 11 points. Antonio Jefferson finished with seven points and eight rebounds in only his second full game back on the hardwood.

At 4-3 overall, Lakeland has two games remaining before Christmas. After not qualifying for the Southeastern District Tournament last season, the Cavs and Wright are optimistic they’ll get there this year.

“From a maturity and growth perspective, I feel we are where we need to be,” Wright said. “I do feel we have let one or two wins slip away, particularly tonight. In the Nansemond River game, we were close going into the fourth quarter and I think the experience of their ballclub separated them. We’ll have a little bit of a bad taste in our mouths from this one and try to take it out on our next opponent.”

Lakeland faces Oscar Smith (1-4) at home on Friday.