The Lakeland Lakers are going back to nationals! On Saturday, the Lakers played the Cuyahoga Triceratops at OU-Lancaster and defeated Tri-C for the second time this season by a score of 69-63. With the win, the top seeded Lakers improved their record to 22-7 and will now return to Nationals for the second consecutive year. This was a tale of two halves for the Lakers offensively. In the first half, they played strong defense, but had difficulty scoring. Lakeland was led by Chris Richardson's 9 points in the first half, but still trailed by 10 at the break, 32-22. Lakeland was just 7-20 from the field in the first half.
The second half featured more of the same defensively as Lakeland controlled the defensive glass. They typically only allowed Tri-C one shot per possession and that led to more scoring opportunities for the Lakers. In the second half, Lakeland shot 50% from the field (13-26). Lakeland trailed by 5 with 14:28 to play when Julian Jackson hit a big 3. After a Tri-C missed shot, Keith Germain grabbed the rebound and then hit a lay-up to tie the score. Germain later connected on a jumper with about 12:30 to play that gave Lakeland the lead back for the first time since about the 5 minute mark in the first half. This time they would not relinquish the lead as they hit many clutch free throws down the stretch to earn the victory.
For the second day in a row, Lakeland had a balanced scoring attack as 9 different players put up points. They were led by Tyreke Johnson's 18 points. Richardson finished with 11 points while Julian Jackson and Jordan Burge each scored 9. Allen Sims added 7 points while Keith Germain chipped in 6 points.
Bowe Bytes: "Our players showed great leadership and compusure down the stretch. Our pressure defense was able to speed the game up which forced Tri-C into many turnovers. We were able to hit our free throws down the stretch to ice the game. I feel like we are battle tested. We had a challenging season and District tournament. We're both honored and ready - to go out and represent the conference at Nationals."
Next up: The National tournament will be seeded on Monday and then released. Tournament play begins next Tuesday, March 17, in Danville, Illinois.