A big road win for the Lakewood boys basketball team also came with a hard lesson Jan. 8.
Take your foot off the gas pedal and you may get caught.
After allowing Elyria Catholic to storm back from a 70-59 deficit in the game’s final 54 seconds and force overtime, the youthful Rangers were able to rebound for an 82-75 win, their biggest to date in their first season in the Great Lakes Conference.
“I was super happy, ecstatic (we were able to hold on),” Rangers coach Alex Cammock said.
The Panthers’ 11-0 run to close the fourth was a fusion of desperation and clutch shot-making that evaporated a double-digit scoring margin that had existed for much of the second half. Denny Fischer hit a 3-pointer with 43 seconds left to cut it to 70-62, then Jaret Frantz’ lay in made it 70-64 with 22 seconds remaining.
Frantically pressuring the ensuing Lakewood inbound, Frantz stole the ball and dished it out to Fischer, who hit another 3-pointer to make it 70-67. After a pair of missed Ranger free throws at the other end, Panthers forward Jack Kenneally got downcourt, dribbled to the left wing and drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force overtime.
“Down like that, you’ve got nothing to lose, and you maximize that pressure as much as you can,” Panthers coach Rob Palmer said. “I feel like that’s where our length played to our strengths. We were able to get some turnovers, speed them up, get down the court.”
The Rangers (2-2, 2-1 GLC) were left reeling.
“We gave it up at the end, which was kind of a scare,” said Rangers senior Pete Patsouras, one of only two returning varsity players this season. “We were folding under pressure, honestly. (Elyria Catholic) turned on the switch.”
With both teams already in the bonus heading into the extra frame, foul shooting and defense were going to matter the most, and the Rangers closed out their victory by succeeding at both. They forced four Panthers turnovers, held them scoreless for the first 3:34 and made 10 of 13 free throw attempts.
Four free throws made by Patsouras and reserve forward Myles Harper in the final 10 seconds finally put the game away.
“(Elyria Catholic’s) just a really good squad,” Patsouras said. “We played as a team, played great and hit the shots we needed to hit at the end.”
Patsouras, a talented 6-foot-3 forward, attacked the Panther defense all night, scoring a game-high 31 points to go with 12 rebounds and two assists. Almost half of his points came in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Fellow senior Riley Ulintz, a guard, scored 21 with three assists and three steals. Hakeem Quran joined them in double figures with 10 points and reserve forward Jaquan Neal, whose steal on the Panthers’ first overtime possession got the team going, had eight points and seven boards.
Despite giving up size to the Panthers (1-4, 1-4 GLC) the Rangers hung tough on the glass, matching them with 35 rebounds and beating them on the offensive end, 13-10.
“We’re height-deficient, so to get the rebounds we did was nice,” Cammock said. “That’s nice, to see guys getting after it.”
Kenneally, a 6-foot-7 matchup nightmare, finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds–his fourth double-double of the season. Frantz also notched a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards. Fischer scored 13.
The Panthers had to do plenty of coming back over the course of the night, before forcing OT. The Rangers led 22-17 after a fast-paced first quarter and went ahead by 10, 38-28, after a Patsouras bucket late in the half. A 10-5 run to close it put the Panthers within five, 43-38.
Lakewood led 58-49 after three, and a 6-0 run early in the fourth gave it its biggest lead, 69-56, before Elyria Catholic started to come back.
After blowing such a lead late, Patsouras hopes his younger teammates will learn from the experience.
“I tell these younger guys, you’ve got to lock in on defense,” he said. “With JV and varsity level, that’s two different ball games. They locked in (in overtime).”
Lakewood will travel to Bay on Friday for a 7:30 p.m. tip.
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