Coming into the game on Wednesday night, the prediction was that the Lakeland Lakers and the Cuyahoga CC Triceratops basketball game was going to be a battle. It was going to be hard fought and tightly contested. The game lived up to it's billing and more as the Lakers defeated the Triceratops 71-69. With the victory, Lakeland improves to 13-5 and 5-0 in conference play. Cuyahoga falls to 10-8 overall and 1-3 in conference play.This game was a barn burner as there were 16 lead changes and the score was tied 9 different times. The first half was a game of runs as the Lakers jumped out to an early 8-2 lead 3 minutes into the game; that was their largest lead of the night. Cuyahoga battled back and took the lead - and then expanded it - at 24-15 with about 10 minutes to play in the first half; that was the Triceratops largest lead of the night. The Lakers battled back from that deficit on tremendous hustle play by Julian Jackson which led to a Tyreke Johnson lay-up, a Jonny Bowers 15' shot, some key Lakeland free throws, and then finally a Johnson three pointer on a nice swing pass from Allen Sims. From then on the team traded baskets and small leads - never getting higher than 6 points the rest of the night. The half ended (36-32 Tri-C) on a nice Julian Jackson pass to Keith Germain who calmly drained a 10' shot from the baseline.
The excitement and intensity grew from there. The two teams continued to trade baskets and small leads for the first 17 minutes of the second half. When the teams weren't scoring, they were trading strong defensive efforts which led to steals, turnovers, and some good scoring opportunities. Both teams drew several charge calls throughout the game. The highlight of that time, when the excitement exploded from the Laker fans, was after a Jonny Bowers steal and thunderous dunk with about 13:30 to play. Both teams and the crowd ramped up their energy level from there as the teams continued to trade baskets for the next several minutes. With just over 3 minutes to play, Allen Sims hit a turnaround jumper in the paint to give Lakeland a 63-62 lead. A Cuyahoga turnover was followed by a Lakeland missed shot which led to a Cuyahoga lay-up to give the visitors a 64-63 advantage. On Lakeland's next possession, they missed a shot, but Chris Richardson was able to grab the offensive board and was fouled as he made a lay-up. Richardson converted the free throw to give the Lakers a 66-64 lead with 2:40 to play. At the 2:09 mark, Tri-C missed a shot but grabbed the offensive rebound and made a lay-up to tie it at 66. After another Laker miss, Lakeland picked up the defense and deflected a pass which led to a scramble and a jump ball - Cuyahoga retained possession with 1:34 to play. After a timeout, Cuyahoga again missed a shot, but controlled the rebound and converted another lay-up for a 68-66 lead with 1:22 to play. Lakeland then brought the ball up court and Jordan Burge drove the lane and was fouled. He calmly hit both free throws to tie the score at 68 with 1:03 to play. With 4 seconds left on the shot clock, Lakeland was called for a blocking foul as a Cuyahoga player threw a shot up in hope. At the line, he was able to only connect on 1 giving Cuyahoga a 69-68 advantage with 37 seconds to play. Lakeland brought the ball up the court and called a timeout with 30 seconds to play. On the final offensive play of the night for the Lakers, Jonny Bowers had control of the ball as the clock was winding down. He brought the ball back out and hit Tyreke Johson with a pass just beyond the arc. Johnson took a couple of dribbles with defenders all over him and then stepped up and drained the three to give the Lakers a 71-69 lead with 15 seconds to play. Cuyahoga then brought the ball up the court, but were unable to convert on a strongly defended shot as time expired.
The Lakers were led by Tyreke Johnson who had 27 points and 5 rebounds. Jonny Bowers added 9 points and 6 rebounds while Allen Sims pitched in 8 points. Chris Richards and Jordan Burge each contributed 7 points while Julian Jackson had 6 points and 3 assists. In all, 8 different Lakers scored.
Tyreke Johnson - "I think we had good composure as a team tonight. Our sophomores really led the way as we were able to execute the game plan that our coaching staff drew up." On the last shot, "We had a play drawn up in the timeout that didn't work. Jonny was able to bring it back out and passed it to me. It was the only shot I knew I would get. I took it with confidence and it went in."
Jonny Bowers - "Tyreke stepped up big time. He hit big shots throughout the game." On the steal and dunk, "The atmosphere really changed with that play. The crowd really got going and that energy really helped us stand up and finish the game hard."
Bowe Bytes: "I felt we did a great job defensively making it very difficult on their post presence. We really followed our game plan. Down the stretch, we just hit some tough baskets. We showed our character tonight. We didn't panic when we were down 6 or 7. Good players make good plays and Tyreke made a very good play in the end. We now need to regroup and get ready for an extremely difficult road game on Saturday (Columbus State)."
Next up: Lakeland will travel to Columbus State on Saturday to take on the Cougars in a 3pm tilt. Next Wednesday, 1/29, Lakeland will play host to the Owens CC Express at 7:30 pm. Admission is free.