The Lakeland men's basketball team hosted the St. Clair County CC Skippers on Thursday night and came away with a closely contested 96-92 (OT) victory. With the win, the Lakers record improves to 10-4 while St. Clair falls to 7-6. Lakeland came out very sloppy in the first half. There were several times where they struggled to get into a sustained rhythm. Every time it looked like they were about to get going, they would come up with an errant pass or go dry when trying to score. At one point, Lakeland held a 10 point advantage, but they just could not continue with any consistency. St. Clair was able to put some good ball pressure on the Lakers and were timely with their attack. The key to staying in the game throughout the first half was the rebounding edge the Lakers held. Lakeland went into the half with a slim 41-39 advantage.
The second half got very nerve-racking for the Lakers and its fans. Lakeland continued to struggle offensively and missed several close range shots while St. Clair continued a consistent offensive effort. The Skippers led by as many as 14 with 5:48 to play. From there, Lakeland picked up their level of play and began a relentless defensive effort. Lakeland had cut the lead to 79-73 when Chris Richardson blocked a shot. The ball was forwarded to Allen Sims where he was fouled. After making 1-2 free throws, Sims deflected a pass on the ensuing play. The deflected pass was sent back to Sims where he was again fouled. This time he made both free throws to trim the deficit to 3 at 79-76 with 59.4 seconds to play. St. Clair then brought the ball up and used some clock. The Skippers then missed a shot and Lakeland got the rebound. Lakeland advanced the ball to mid-court and called a time out looking for a play to tie. Out of the timeout, Tyreke Johnson took the 3 point shot for the tie and missed. However, he hustled by following his shot and got the rebound. Johnson then made a quick bounce pass to Richardson who made a lay-up and was fouled. He sank the free throw to tie the score at 79 with 6.8 seconds to play. After another two timeouts, St. Clair inbounded the ball and drove the court. The Skippers then passed the ball to a teammate who shot and made a 5 footer as time expired. The referees huddled to determine if the shot had got off in time – it was ruled that the shot was after time expired – overtime!
Overtime started rough for the Lakers again as the Skippers converted quickly on a shot, forced a turnover, and then were credited with a basket after a goaltending call. With the Lakers trailing by 5 and 3:21 to play, Sims sank two more free throws to cut the lead to 84-81. Lakeland's defense forced a turnover and Sims converted a layup to make it 84-83. Another turnover by St. Clair set up a Johnson 3 pointer to give the Lakers the 86-84 advantage. After a Skipper basket tied it at 86, Johnson hit another 3 from the left arc to again give Lakeland the lead at 89-86. After a Skipper made free throw, Jordan McMillian stole a ball and hit Jonny Bowers with a fast breaking pass that Bowers laid in and was fouled. After the made free throw, Lakeland now led 92-87. The Skippers Richard Washington hit a long range 3 to make the score 92-90 with 24.9 seconds to play. Johnson was fouled on the inbounds play and hit both free throws to make it 94-90 with 19.7 seconds to play. After each team missing opportunities, St. Clair drove the lane and hit a layup making the score 94-92 as the Lakeland defenders did not want to foul with 3.4 seconds to play. On the ensuing inbounds play, Johnson was again fouled and he again made both free throws as the Lakers held on for the 96-92 win.
Four Lakeland players scored in double digits. Tyreke Johnson finished with 24 points and 6 rebounds while Allen Sims had 18 points and 7 boards. Keith Germain and Chris Richardson each had 17 points and 7 rebounds. Jonny Bowers finished with 9 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 steals. Riley Bugg led the Skippers with 19 points and 8 rebounds.
Players "Holiday" Perspectives:
Allen Sims – "For me, the best thing is to go home , get to the gym and hang out with my hometown friends."
Tyshaun Howard – "I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with family." As for gifts, "Hopefully some money. It's the best gift and would make my Christmas better!"
Jonny Bowers – "The biggest gift I get is to be able to spend some time with my family and to bond together."
Julian Jackson – The biggest hope, "I'm hoping to get an apple watch from Santa. I put it on my Christmas list and I think I've been pretty good this year. I'm pretty excited."
Bowe's Bytes: "Sloppy – certainly not our best. To me this was the classic let done after a big game. I have to give credit to St. Clair though – they played hard. They are a scrappy team with some good players. They are well coached. We were fortunate to be able to battle back and we really did fight to the end. There really was some excellent leadership by Tyreke tonight." On the holiday break, "I really would like the payers to spend some time with their families. I'm looking forward to that also. If you don't have family, you don't have basketball."
Next up: The Lakers will be off for the holiday break before starting the second semester with a home game on Wednesday, January 8 against Bryant and Stratton. Game time is 7:30 pm and admission is free. The Lakers will then travel to Dayton on Saturday, January 11, to play the Sinclair Tartans at 3pm.