Lakeland unable to take down Great Bridge

Published 8:12 pm Saturday, January 19, 2013

By Matthew Hatfield

A few minutes s into their Southeastern District basketball tilt on Friday night against the Great Bridge Wildcats, the Lakeland Cavaliers had thought they might be able to pull off one of the season’s biggest upsets. The Cavaliers sank their first four shots and led a Great Bridge team that has yet to lose a district game.

But youth and inexperience could not prevail against the defending district champs, and Lakeland couldn’t sustain the fast start against the Wildcats, who didn’t turn the ball over once in the fourth quarter on their way to a 69-51 rout of the Cavs.

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“My hat’s off to Great Bridge,” Lakeland coach Clint Wright said. “Marcus Evans is one of the top players, if not the top player, in the district, and his decision-making and calmness are amazing to me.”

“We played a very efficient basketball team, and they’re the most efficient team we’ve played. I think the most athletic team would probably be a Nansemond River. But Great Bridge really sticks to their offense, and some of the things they do we are striving to do.”

Although Lakeland led 8-5 to begin the game, they found themselves down 15-12 at the end of the opening period as they missed 12 consecutive shots. Once the Cavs snapped out of the funk, Great Bridge had scored 10 points in a row to stretch their lead.

Lakeland missed 22 of their last 26 shots in the first half, but the 33-25 halftime deficit wasn’t insurmountable.

But Great Bridge would push its lead to 17 points in the third quarter, and the Cavs were in trouble. Lakeland responded with a 7-0 run to end the third quarter and pull within 10, down 47-37 as Marche Everette drained a three-pointer and Markese Wright and Brandon Bailey also chipped in buckets.

Keeping the Cavs within striking distance was their front court, featuring Everette and freshmen Deonta Knight and Jaquan Yulee. Knight led the way with 13 points, while Everette added 12 points and Yulee had nine points and eight boards.

“Yulee and Knight being freshmen that have played J.V. the year before, getting a taste of the varsity game will do wonders for them going forward,” Wright said.

Great Bridge pressed its advantage to double figures with 10 of the first 12 points in the fourth quarter, triggered by a pair of steals. Evans led the way with 21 points for Great Bridge, which put four players in double-digits.

A 3-for-20 shooting performance from beyond the arc cost Lakeland dearly.

“Our shot selection was not good at all, and I think one of the biggest things my team has difficulty with right now is court awareness,” Wright said. “Knowing when to take the correct shot, and that’s something I think will evolve over games like this one. I shared with the guys that we’re not good enough to make those mistakes and overcome them, so we have to reduce the turnovers and things of that nature to be successful.”

Lakeland goes into Tuesday night’s home contest with Western Branch at 7-11 overall, 4-9 in league play, sitting one game behind Deep Creek for sixth place. Six teams qualify for the Southeastern District Tournament, and the next couple weeks may very well define the Cavs’ fate.

“We’re coming and haven’t arrived yet,” Wright said. “We have to click, but if we trust our teammates and keep plugging away, we’ll see improvement. I love the bunch of kids we have and told them that all of our errors are correctable. There’s nothing we’ve done out here that we can’t fix in practice, but it takes a total dedication from everyone, focused to get there and finish games.”