Lakewood swept James Kenan right back into Duplin County Tuesday, winning all three basketball games, but it wasn’t without some controversy.
The Salemburg gym was filled with fans from both teams anxious to watch the girls teams vie for the No. 1 standing in the conference. It was a revenge game for the Lady Tigers and they succeeded — almost.
The Tigers came to the Leopard gym ready to avenge their overtime loss in Duplin County last month and they had it won until .02 seconds left in the game.
That‘s when Bianca Moore hit her one and only field goal of the game to put the Lady Leopards up by 1 point, 32-31, and the fans stormed the court.
Lakewood is the only team to beat the Tigers so far this season in conference play. JK is the only conference team to come close to beating the Lady Leopards, as well.
It was all defense as both teams spent most of the game playing man-to-man. After a hotly contested first quarter, the score was knotted at 10.
The Tigers took the lead, 10-13, with 6:35 left in the second quarter, but Leopard Tasha Rich quickly tied it up again with a 3-pointer.
Emotions were running high as the clock counted down to intermission and the Tigers scored 6 points in a row. The half ended with the Leopards down by one, 18-19.
The score moved back and forth throughout the third quarter, but neither team hit the basket like they normally do.
With one minute left in the third, the Lady Leopards managed to steal the inbound pass underneath their own goal three times in a row for 6 quick points, putting them up 26-23 to start the fourth period.
Both teams played tough defense in that frame, and with 1:11 left in the game, the Leopards were down 29-31.
A timeout was called at 37 seconds, and when time started back, the Leopards made one shot from a one and one at the charity stripe to move the score to 30-31 with 12.3 seconds. The Leopards managed to keep the Tigers from scoring and go the ball back with less than 5 seconds on the clock.
They raced down court and Bianca Moore hit a pull-up jumper from about six feet out. The basket counted and put the Leopards up 32-31.
James Kenan’s coach contended that time had run out before Moore released the ball, but the referees disagreed. She plans to protest the game.
Lakewood head coach Lofton Kerr was overjoyed with the win. “What can you say? We were fortunate to even get that shot at the end.”
“I knew it would be a hard-fought game, but it will always be like that when we play JK. Their defense bothered us and we were rushing what we were doing. We’ve got to start playing our game,” he said.
Leading all scorers was Brittney Boykin with 11 points. Teisha Rich was close behind with 9 points; her sister, Tasha Rich had 6, both 3 pointers; and Jakyra Braxton scored 2 points. Bianca Moore scored 4 - 2 free throws and the basket that won the game.
The Leopards remain undefeated in the conference, while JK only has two losses, and both of those were to Lakewood.
The varsity boys went at it hard from the opening tip-off, but the Leopards managed to take the lead in the early part of the second quarter and held on despite a strong Tiger defense.
The score was tied at 9 after the first eight minutes, but Lakewood put 15 on the board to the Tigers’ 6 points for a halftime score of 24-15.
JK put 3 more points than the Leopards on the board in the third quarter, but they were still down by 6 to begin the final eight minutes at 36-30.
Ryan Emfinger had the hot hand, scoring 18 points, but Patrick Rich was close behind with 16. Other scorers for the Leopards were Nikin Henry and Mike Smith, each with 6 points; Deontre Newkirk, 3; Tyler Baucom, 2; and Kevin Murphy, 1 point.
Lakewood boys head coach Sylvester Pittman couldn’t have been more pleased with this win over the Tigers.
“We started a little sluggish, but overall we played a good ballgame. We’re coming off a big win over Midway, so I expected us to be a little sluggish. We’re getting better with every game,” he explained.
The varsity boys are 6-5 in the conference and 10-10 overall and are third place in the conference with just three more regular season games to go. Union and Pender are both tied for second and those are the last two teams Lakewood is scheduled to play this season.
The Lakewood boys junior varsity turned on the heat in the final half of their game versus the Tigers and squeaked out a win.
James Kenan led for most of the game, scoring 17 to the Leopards 10 points in the first quarter, and then going into the locker room with a halftime lead of 25-30.
James Kenan started out the game with a strong defense, forcing errant passes and grabbing the offensive rebound.
In the second half, the Leopards stepped up their defense despite four third quarter fouls on D.J. Rich. With one minute off the clock in the fourth, Lakewood had moved to within 2 points, 45-47.
A five second call put the ball back into Leopard hands and suddenly the score was tied.
With about three minutes left, Lakewood took the lead for the first time, 51-49. A stolen pass and a quick 3-pointer by Willie Henry gave the Leopards a 6-point cushion that they took all the way to the end. The final score was 59-53.
Leading all scorers was Deshaun Wilson with 19 points. Willie Henry and Mike Graham each scored 10; Maurice Boone and D.J. Rich each scored 8 points; Naisen Devane put 5 on the board.
Pittman, Lakewood boys’ head coach, said, “This was a great ballgame for our kids. They played a good game, and we needed that, especially after the tough loss at Midway last week.
The Leopards move to 6-5 and are No. 3 in the conference.
Lakewood travels into Wildcat country Friday night.