If Friday night’s game between Lakewood High School’s varsity boys team and Lower Richland had lasted another five seconds, you get the feeling the Gators would’ve hit their own buzzer-beater as well, but instead, the game ended after 32 minutes, like it always does, and the Lakewood fans went home heartbroken.
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Lower Richland’s Dajon Townsend hit a 3-pointer as time expired to give the Diamond Hornets a 43-41 victory over Lakewood on Friday night at The Swamp, dropping the Gators to 9-12 overall and 4-4 in Region 4A-IV action.
The Gators had just stormed back from a 7-point deficit in the final three minutes, using an 8-0 run, punctuated by a go-ahead basket from Jacqorey Melton with only nine seconds remaining before Townsend’s heroics won it for L-R.
“We didn’t play well; we didn’t,” said Lakewood head coach Ed Scott. “We played in spurts, but we’re a much better team than we showed tonight.”
Lakewood was coming off a season-defining victory over No. 2 A.C. Flora on Tuesday, and nearly pulled off a second big victory over L-R, who entered the week ranked as the No. 4 team in 4A.
“At Lakewood, we don’t want to settle and just say it’s okay for us to be close; we want to win this game,” said Scott. “We know that if we can execute, we can play with and beat anybody, and if we don’t, then we’ll lose. Tonight, we didn’t execute. We had spurts where we didn’t play the way that we wanted to play. It’s disappointing, but it shows you the growth of this team and it shows you this team can be as good as they want to be. It all depends on how well we focus and execute.”
Senior Quentin Hodge led the Gators with 15 points. Melton added nine, and Zayveon Wells finished with seven.
The Lady Gators showed improvement after losing to Lower Richland 66-25 back on Jan. 21, but ultimately fell 64-46 on Friday night.
“I’m proud of their effort towards the end; I’m just frustrated with the little things,” said Lady Gators head coach Stephen Adams. “That was expected with this season. Last year was the first time playing varsity basketball for a lot of these girls, so we’re super young. The talent is there, but I knew we were going to take our lumps this season.”
Lakewood played short-handed with just six players because two were sick and another suspended for the game. Late in the fourth quarter they also lost point guard Quawnty Billups after a short tussle with a few Lower Richland players resulted in her ejection.
The Lady Gators trailed just 33-26 at halftime before L-R used a 16-5 run in the third quarter to pull away.
Tanaijah Wright was the star for Lakewood, scoring 18 points and handling point guard duties after Billups was ejected. Treasure Smalls added eight points, and Billups and Anti’Yona Roach scored seven apiece.
“Tanaijah is my super sophomore,” said Adams. “This is only her second year playing organized basketball, so she is still learning what she can do. She has the natural raw talent. We have the pieces, it’s just putting in the work now.”
Lakewood fell to 3-20 overall and 0-8 in region play with the loss, but Adams has hope for the future once they get one of their leaders, Stevye Sinkler, back next season coupled with the ascension of several players on the JV team.
“Adversity builds character,” said Adams. “It’s either going to build your character or reveal your real character. We just need to keep on fighting because I see a lot of positive things. I really believe next year with some of our JV players coming up and Stevye coming back and along with Tanaijah, I really believe we’ll be able to make a run. You can’t see it now, but we have a lot of great stuff in the future as long as everyone sticks together and believes in it.”
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