Lakeland upsets No. 1 Warriors

Published 2:34 am Thursday, February 20, 2014

There seemed to be multiple signs foreshadowing what the No.4-seeded Lakeland High School’s boys’ basketball team was going to accomplish Wednesday night in the conference tournament semifinal against No. 1 Nansemond River High School.

The signs pointed to a program-defining 66-59 upset that gave Lakeland a regional berth and put it in the conference final.

One sign came in the form of Lakeland’s frenetic defense that cut short so many of Nansemond River’s possessions, limited it to 36 percent shooting (20-of-55) from the floor and forced 30 turnovers, a season high for the Warriors.

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“I thought that we played great defense,” Cavaliers head coach Clint Wright said. Lakeland used a press against Nansemond River for the first time this season, and he said, “It did interrupt some of their passing lanes,” and some of their rhythm.

Another sign came in the assuredness of Lakeland’s offense.

Junior Kenya Latham worked his no-look magic and dictated the flow of the game with his play at point guard, ending up with nine points and 11 assists.

Senior Marche’ Everette hit one crucial shot after another in the paint, at the foul line and even some from downtown. He led Lakeland with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Sophomore Deonta Knight scored key baskets at various points during the game, ending up with 12 points and eight boards. Not long after Nansemond River senior Daniel Wallace had tied up the game with a dunk late in the first quarter, Knight shot a three-pointer at the buzzer from near half court, ushering the crowd to its feet as it found the bottom of the net.

“When I released it, I knew it was good,” he said.

Yet another sign of Lakeland’s coming victory was its seemingly endless depth.

“At no time when we inserted somebody into the basketball game was it detrimental,” Wright said.

Lakeland benefited from many clutch performances, including those by senior Markese Wright, sophomore Qurante Budd, sophomore Jaquan Yulee, sophomore Daquan Boyette and junior Terry Mitchell.

As most anticipated, the Warriors made a run in the fourth quarter and came within 56-55 on a three-pointer by junior Scott Spencer, but Lakeland always had a response.

Warriors head coach Ed Young was caught up in the contrast found in his team’s last two performances of the 2013-14 season.

“Extreme disappointment in this effort … after extreme (pride) in the effort against the best 4A team in the state,” he stated in a text message, alluding to the Warriors’ 76-70 win over Heritage High School on Saturday.

This marks only the second year in Nansemond River’s history that it will not advance to the regional tournament.

Senior Daniel Wallace led the way for the Warriors with 18 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Senior Devon Oakley had 15 points, five boards, three steals and three blocks, while Spencer had 11 points.

Describing what the win meant to him, Coach Wright reveled in its practical implications: “It means we’re in the regionals.”

Everette highlighted a statement made through Wednesday’s game.

“Just never sleep on the underdog,” he said. “Anything can happen at any moment.”

The loss left Nansemond River with a 19-4 overall record for the year, while Lakeland gets back to .500, at 12-12.

The No. 4 Cavaliers will play the winner of Thursday’s semifinal game between No. 3 King’s Fork High School (13-10) and No. 2 Heritage (17-5).

The Ironclad Conference tournament championship will be held on Friday, with tip-off scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at King’s Fork High School.