Cavaliers improve to 2-1

Published 10:07 pm Tuesday, December 10, 2019

By Matthew Hatfield


The Lakeland Cavaliers played their Southeastern District opener on Monday night in Chesapeake against the Grassfield Grizzlies, who entered the contest with a 2-0 overall record.

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One thing there is no substitute for is experience, which Lakeland showed at various points of the game. The Cavaliers were able to steadily grow their lead in a 66-43 road victory that upped the team’s record to 2-1 overall.

The senior perimeter trio of Raymond Bellamy, Keimari Artis and Clint Wright Jr. accounted for 33 of Lakeland’s 36 first-half points.

By night’s end, Bellamy had 19 points and seven rebounds to lead the way, while Wright Jr. chipped in 15 points on 3-of-6 shooting from three-point territory. Artis scored all 10 of his points before half-time.

“Those guys are so familiar with what I want them to do,” said Lakeland head basketball Coach Clint Wright. “They have an idea of coaching while being on the basketball court. And of course, they don’t want to be held accountable for it afterwards either.”

Lakeland followed up their effort of 18 assists against Class 5 Prince George on Saturday by having twice as many assists — 14 — as turnovers committed in handling a Class 6 foe.

Beyond their unselfishness, though, the way they valued the basketball and defended with discipline might’ve pleased Wright most.

Lakeland didn’t commit its first personal foul until just under five minutes to go in the second period. Their first turnover didn’t occur until less than four minutes left in the second half. That helped as they took a 14-9 lead after one quarter and turned it into advantage of 10 points at intermission and then 22 going through three periods.

“Defense has been our identity. We haven’t been shooting the basketball well, so the games that we have won simply are because we’ve played great defense,” Wright added. “My thing is to be in position to play defense, and I think we did that tonight.”

There was a sidebar storyline for Wright in this district opener. Erik Johnson, his former junior varsity coach at Lakeland, was on the opposite sideline. Johnson is in his first season at Grassfield after previous stops as the varsity head coach at Poquoson and Windsor. Wright said he was “super proud,” of the direction Johnson has the Grizzlies going.

Even with a 36-26 lead at half-time, the Cavs knew it was important to get some distance between themselves and the home squad.

“Stop taking teams light,” Wright told them. “We have a tendency to sometimes relax and wait until adversity strikes to decide that we’re going to play. I challenged them to some practice activities. You saw in the second half we were focused and accountable with what we were doing.”

Wright Jr. connected with Bellamy on an alley-oop midway through the third quarter that got the fans on their feet and gave the Cavs an 18-point cushion. Over the final 16 minutes, the Cavaliers finished quite a few fast-break opportunities, plus managed to make 6-foot-3 senior forward Shawn Mitchell a focal point in the low block area out of their half-court sets.

“Shawn is about to be a pleasant surprise. We’re trying to establish post play with him alongside Tyshawn (Allen),” Wright noted. “We think that’ll give us balance and teams will have to play us honest. I think teams are going to push up on our guards and run us off the 3. Now hopefully we can be effective enough in the post to make them pay.”

Whether it’s someone as high as a Class 6 foe or low as Class 1, the Cavs’ plan doesn’t change. That is to compete with some of the better teams around, both within the district and regionally.

“This group has been together for the last three years,” Wright pointed out. “We’ve had that 3A (playoff) experience. We’re not promising anything, but we’re going to be competitive indeed.”

Next on the schedule for Lakeland is a matchup with Class 2 Brunswick on Saturday in a showcase at Sussex Central High School.