Lakeview wins a tight one in TAC
LaBrae missed a last-second shot as the Bulldogs won 66-65.
By DOUG CHAPIN
CORTLAND -- Who needs expansion, merger, realignment, whatever ... things are just fine in the Trumbull Athletic Conference.
Year after year, the league's boys basketball race is a dogfight with at least half the teams in contention. Even those programs going through down cycles manage to pull off a big upset here and there.
While school administrators work out the future of the conference, the boys basketball teams are again providing great entertainment.
Case in point, Lakeview's 66-65 victory Friday night over LaBrae. Though the Bulldogs (9-2, 5-0 TAC) never trailed thanks to a 14-3 start in the first four minutes of the game, the contest was in doubt until the final possession.
LaBrae (7-4, 3-2) had the ball that last possession with five seconds remaining. Cameron Truss drove the lane but was unable to connect in traffic, then neither team could gain possession of the rebound in a crowded lane as the clock ran down.
Lakeview rode its quick start to a 20-11 advantage after one quarter, but the Vikings picked up the intensity and maintained it the rest of the way.
"We saw three films of LaBrae and in all of them they played so hard," Lakeview coach George Lanterman said. "They picked it up in that second quarter and played typical LaBrae pressure basketball. We didn't do some things we should have, but you have to give them credit.
"You can't practice against the kind of pressure they bring. We didn't react well at first, but in the second half we settled in and took the ball to the rim."
The Vikings closed to within one point on several occasions in the second quarter, but trailed 35-30 at the half. Though Lakeview opened an 11-point lead in the third quarter, the advantage was still five, 49-44, at the end of the period. In the final quarter, LaBrae again closed to within one point on several occasions but could never take the lead.
"Our effort was great, the kids couldn't play any harder from start to finish," LaBrae coach Chad Kiser said. "In the first quarter on offense we didn't do what we wanted to do, which was attack the basket. We settled too often for jump shots and we got in a hole.
"Once we settled in and ran our offense we did what we wanted to do, attack the basket and get to the free throw line. But we missed nine free throws in the first half and in the long run that hurt us."
Senior guard Dustin Opalka led Lakeview in scoring (18 points), rebounding (seven) and assists (seven). Junior point guard Jon Kittle added 16 points and five assists. Greg McCumber added six rebounds and six points and Mark Novotny scored eight points.
Senior post player Mike Ryan led LaBrae with 19 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots. Eric Hart added 18 points before fouling out, Cory Hinzman had 11 points and Truss contributed six steals, five rebounds and seven points.
The Bulldogs' ability to withstand both the pressure of the LaBrae defense and the pressure of the situation can be attributed to their experience, according to Lanterman.
"It's all about our seniors staying calm out there. They've been around," he said. "Dustin [Opalka] is a three-year starter and though Jon [Kittle] is a junior, he played some point guard last year."
Hart scored the final points of the game, sinking two free throws with 1:20 remaining.
Despite a 5-0 start to the league season, Lanterman said the Bulldogs are not looking very far into the future.
"In this league you have to win at home, protect your home court, and we've done that so far," he said. "But we look no further than one game ahead. We have Champion next and though they are 0-4 in the league we know that if we don't come out to play on Tuesday they can beat us."