‘Worth the price of admission’
Published 6:04 pm Monday, December 31, 2018
By Matthew Hatfield
What a difference a year makes. To close out 2017, the Lakeland Cavaliers suffered defeats to both of its city rivals, Nansemond River and King’s Fork, amidst a seven-game losing streak. Lakeland reversed those outcomes a year later in the King’s Fork Holiday Tournament, edging Nansemond River in a thrilling championship game, 66-63, to finish out the 2018 calendar year at 7-1 overall.
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“Anytime you bring rival teams together, you’re always going to get a barn-burner type of atmosphere. We’re glad that the crowd showed up and we definitely didn’t want it to go down to the wire, but consequently it did just that and it was worth the price of admission,” said Lakeland head coach Clint Wright.
Lakeland got off to a quick start, sinking four three-point shots in the opening quarter with Jaren Reid connecting at the buzzer to give the Cavs a 17-14 lead. Each time it appeared they might be ready to pull away, Nansemond River answered, taking a 23-22 lead on a lay-up by Rashaad Williams with 3:48 before halftime.
Yet again, the Cavs hit another buzzer-beater to go to the locker room at the break as Keimari Artis — named tourney MVP — gave his team a 35-31 advantage. Lakeland made 7-of-10 three-pointers in the first half.
“It was important to get off to a good start, and we did shoot the basketball well,” said Wright.
However, the Cavs knew even in building a 10-point lead at 41-31 early in the third quarter, that the Warriors would battle back. Justin Fatherly scored a team-high 15 points for Nansemond River, including a three-pointer that tied the score at 63-all with 31 seconds remaining. All-Tournament Team selection Rayshawn Murray supplied 14 points and five rebounds.
After Fatherly’s basket, All-Tournament Team performer Raymond Bellamy of Lakeland made a pair of free-throws with 14.2 seconds to play to give Lakeland a 65-63 lead. Nansemond River missed two potential go-ahead three-pointers in the final seconds.
“The execution was OK except for that last possession. We were definitely going for the win, but we didn’t get the shot that we wanted,” said Nansemond River’s Craig Frost, filling in as interim head coach with Ed Young attending his mom’s funeral in Pennsylvania.
“Some of the guys didn’t handle the pressure like I thought they would. But I was proud of the effort we displayed, especially towards the end by coming back and hitting the 3 to tie it up.”
A turning point in the game came at the 5:34 mark of the fourth quarter when Lakeland’s Quentin Livingston — who had 14 points and 10 rebounds — was ejected for his flagrant foul on Nansemond River’s Jalil Langston, who also did not return.
“He got frustrated because there wasn’t a foul called at one end, then decided to take it into his hands,” Wright said. “Q is one of the most passionate basketball players, but I stressed to him the importance of maintaining your poise. It’s something that I don’t condone or promote, so we’ll find out just what that penalty is going into next week.”
Coming off the bench for the Warriors, Tyshawn Allen had eight of his 10 points in the second half to go with three blocks.
“Once Jalil went out, we lost some poise and had to re-group at the end. Jakari Joy came in and settled us down, and Tyshawn provided us a really good lift with his work inside as well,” Frost added. “Free-throws hurt us bad, and if we had hit some of those, we would’ve been fine.”
Nansemond River went 7-of-16 from the foul line for the game. Bellamy scored 16 points for Lakeland, while Artis chipped in 14 points. Together, they were accurate at the foul line yet again, combining to go 13-of-15 to offset the fact the Cavs were 0-for-10 from three-point land in the second half.
“Since we were in the bonus early, we knew we had to get to the line and make our free-throws. That was going to determine who was going to win the game,” Bellamy pointed out.
“We didn’t want it to be, but it ended up being a dogfight,” said Artis. “We were able to do what we had to do. We have a little bit of bragging rights, but we’ve got bigger goals and that’s getting to states.”
What was the biggest takeaway for Wright from the tourney?
“Growth,” he replied. “I think we grew up quite a bit. We went through a lot of adversity. Last year we were on the short end, but this time we were on the positive end. Experience is going to be our greatest teacher.”
These two teams face off again when Lakeland visits Nansemond River (4-5) on Friday.