Lakeland finishes strong against Warriors

Published 9:24 pm Monday, December 30, 2019

By Matthew Hatfield


Through the first 22 minutes of action during Saturday’s consolation game of the King’s Fork Holiday Tournament between the Lakeland Cavaliers and Nansemond River Warriors, it appeared the two Suffolk rivals were about as evenly matched as it gets.

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In fact, there were 18 ties and nine lead changes during that stretch, shaping up to be a battle resembling the 62-57 comeback win by Lakeland just nine days earlier at Nansemond River, or possibly even a finish that would need overtime to determine a winner.

Instead, Lakeland seized the final 10 minutes in a decisive manner, outscoring the Warriors 32-15 to close out with a 77-62 victory that improved their record to 6-2 overall on the season.

While the Cavs have leaned heavily on the perimeter trio of Clint Wright Jr., Raymond Bellamy and Keimari Artis, the unsung heroes proved to be a couple of other seniors in 6-foot-5-inch forward Cam Hargraves and 5-foot-11-inch guard Devonte Saunders.

“(Coach) just asks me to be that sparkplug. Come in, bring in energy and give everything the team needs,” said Saunders, who scored all 12 of his points in the second and third quarters to go along with six rebounds off the bench.

“We turned up the tempo and played together. We got everything straight that we needed to handle. We feel like we’re constantly improving and looking at the bigger picture.”

Eager to help his team shake off a 63-60 loss to John Champe the night before, Hargraves took advantage of his opportunity to be in the starting lineup by converting 6-of-7 field goals to also tally 12 points and earn All-Tournament Team honors.

“We talked about how we were going to bounce back and we played team ball,” Hargraves said.

The step-up performance didn’t surprise Lakeland Coach Clint Wright Sr.

“Cam has always been the quiet thunder,” Wright said. “He has the ability and capacity to bring those intangibles.”

Wright Jr. still had another strong scoring effort with 21 points. Bellamy nearly recorded a triple-double with 13 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Artis asserted his defensive prowess with four steals and drawing a charge. Perhaps most vital, the Cavs turned it over only twice the entire second half to finish with a flurry.

“I think we made more key plays,” Wright Sr. said. “From the loss the night before, we had some lagging residual effects. Then we realized we were playing Nansemond River, a local team and a rival. Knowing that Nansemond is never going to back down, we had to make shots and we had some key steals in the second half.”

Nansemond River, which had a 28-21 lead in the second quarter following a three-pointer from Keonte Cobb, falls below the .500 mark to 3-4 overall. Justin Fatherly had 24 points and eight rebounds in defeat. All-Tournament selection Luke Williamson — who scored 24 in the loss to King’s Fork on Friday — chipped in 10 points and three assists.

“We just didn’t execute,” said Warriors Coach Ed Young. “Too many breakdowns that resulted from missed shots that led to uninspired defensive lapses. They took advantage of our mistakes and we let a very winnable game slip through our hands.

“Really disappointed we didn’t bring more energy and focus to this game knowing it would be a close battle between two good teams. We did some good things early but lost our focus. We will re-group and get better, but we have another tough opponent next.”

The Warriors take on North Stafford at Western Branch High School on Jan. 4. As for Lakeland, their next two games are at home: Jan. 4 vs. Heritage and Jan. 7 against King’s Fork.

“A couple plays with John Champe — a fingernail slip of a pass, a turnover here, turnover there — we could’ve scored the most points in that game. My thing is how do you respond in the moment of adversity? We definitely had some issues at the beginning of the first half where we played flat. I had some choice words for them at half-time and we responded favorably. I’m really appreciative of the way they did,” Wright stated.

“We’ve all got goals in the city of Suffolk. We’re 3A, King’s Fork at 4A and Nansemond River at 5A. Our goal is still intact, so we’re still super excited. Guess what? We’re going to lose another game. But as long as our goal is intact, we’re going to be hungry to play basketball.”