With the television cameras of WACH FOX 57 rolling live from The Swamp on Friday and a packed gymnasium that was rocking all night, the varsity boys basketball teams from Lakewood and Crestwood high …
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With the television cameras of WACH FOX 57 rolling live from The Swamp on Friday and a packed gymnasium that was rocking all night, the varsity boys basketball teams from Lakewood and Crestwood high schools both brought their "A" games in what could be termed an instant classic in the rivalry's history.
It was a game of big runs for both sides that included two ties and nine lead changes before the Knights, still searching for their first Region VI-4A win of the season, took the game to overtime with a Kwaleek Jones three.
Just when it seemed Crestwood had some momentum heading into the extra 4-minute period, Lakewood took charge in OT and managed to finally subdue their Sumter School District rivals 58-51, staying in the driver's seat in the race for the region title.
The result left the Gators at 14-9 overall and 5-1 in region play while the Knights fell to 4-17 and 0-7.
Both coaches agreed that the TV cameras and raucous atmosphere amped up the playing level on both sides.
"I told the guys before the game started what kind of atmosphere it was going to be," said Crestwood head coach Tony Wilson, whose team closes out its season Tuesday at Darlington. "It was like we were on ESPN when I saw the cameras and I saw how electric the crowd was. I told the guys all week that we've just got to come out here and play our game, execute what we've been practicing and I think we'll be fine. But I take my hat off to Lakewood, a top team, and I knew that Lakewood was going to come with pressure and they did a good job."
"I really think that everybody got their money's worth, anybody that watched it," said Lakewood head coach Bryan Brown, whose team travels to Lugoff-Elgin Tuesday before closing regular-season play with a make-up game at Darlington next Friday. "It was a great, awesome atmosphere, loud, it kind of reminded me of the old days. It was just an unbelievable atmosphere, and our guys just really persevered through it. It was tough, it was a real tough environment. I didn't expect them (Crestwood) to play the way that they did, but they did and I think that team has gotten better. My hat goes off to Coach Wilson and his team. Those guys played well tonight, which is what should happen when you're playing in a rivalry game."
It was 2-man game for the first 4:42 as Crestwood's Jones outscored Lakewood's Ahkeem Lawson 7-6 before Javarius Bradley hit a three to give the Gators their first lead of the game. Jared Washington answered with a bucket to put the Knights back on top, and Crestwood would lead 16-13 heading to the second quarter.
The lead was 18-13 after another Washington basket to open the second. Lakewood then found the range from beyond the arc as Quentin Hodge drained two threes and Terrell Houston followed with a third consecutive trey, setting off a 16-0 Gator run that included another trey from Grant Singleton. Carl Benjamin connected on a three with 1:25 to go in the half, ending Crestwood's 6:20 scoring drought and pulling the Knights within eight, 29-21, at the break.
After Lakewood dominated the second quarter, it was Crestwood's turn in the third as the Knights went on a 15-5 run after a Singleton basket to open the quarter. Bradley scored 10 of his 13 points during the run, including two threes, one of which tied the score, 36-36, with 28 seconds to go. Houston would connect for a three at the buzzer to put Lakewood back up, 39-36, heading to the final quarter of regulation play.
"They came back strong on us," Brown said. "Usually when you're in games like this, that third quarter you're supposed to try to put a team away and we didn't do it. We had a couple of missed assignments on defense and gave them a couple of easy baskets. They hit a couple of threes in that run and then we ran a little 1-3-1. When we run that defense, of course, we know that we give up 3-pointers. That's one of the soft spots in it, and they just were able to hit them."
The fourth period was an edge of your seat nailbiter throughout, with one tie and six lead changes. The lead changed hands on five consecutive possessions before Singleton, in the midst of a personal 12-0 run that carried into overtime, hit two free throws with 18 seconds to go. Singleton, who had gotten a key block just before being fouled, went for a steal with eight seconds to go, but was whistled for his first foul. Crestwood got an inbounds after the foul and managed to find Jones for the game-tying three at the buzzer.
"When they hit that three, I'm going to be honest, I think I made a bad call on that at the end," Brown said. "We should have been in man-to-man, we were in two. I just wasn't thinking it was a three. It was a tough call. Great shot by them, I think it was guarded, it's just that he knocked the shot down. They hit shots tonight. I think that's the best that they've probably played all year, and that's good. That says that their team has gotten better over the year."
Both coaches praised the play of Singleton, who led all scorers with 22 points, including two threes and 8 for 8 free-throw shooting. All of Singleton's free throws came in the fourth quarter and overtime, when the game was truly hanging in the balance.
"He did what we need him to do," Brown said. "He's the player that we need to step up. He's a senior, he's our best player, he's our best scorer and we just lean on and depend on him to do that for us in games like this."
"Grant stepped up for them tonight," Wilson said. "He got a big block when Nyjeil (Lindsay) went to take the three. He got a big blocked shot, and I feel that Nyjeil would have knocked that shot down. I was proud of the way my guys played tonight, and I told them they've got nothing to hang their heads down about. They took a top team like Lakewood to overtime, and the game could have gone either way. I think we sputtered offensively at times but I was so proud of the way that they fought tonight."
Houston added 14 and Lawson chipped in 11 for Lakewood while Jones joined Bradley with 13 points to pace Crestwood.
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