Although the Lakeview Academy boys basketball team had a rough finish to the regular season, the Lions start to the postseason couldn’t have gone more smoothly.
After dropping three of four region contests to close out the year, Lakeview Academy blew by Tallulah Falls 65-42 in its first matchup in the Region 8-A tournament Tuesday night in Commerce. The Lions never trailed and led by as much as 27 in one of their most dominant victories of the season.
With the win, Lakeview Academy is assured a spot in the Class A state tournament, but first will play in the region semifinals against the Athens Academy/George Walton Academy winner Friday in Commerce.
“It’s definitely good to be playing our best basketball during tournament time,” Lakeview Academy point guard Blake McIntyre said. “You don’t want to be playing bad this time of year.”
McIntyre scored 17 points to lead the Lions (18-8), while Adam Cottrell pitched in 15. But according to McIntyre and Lakeview Academy coach Todd Cottrell, it was the defense that paved the way for the team’s big night.
The Lions allowed just 12 points in the first half, leading to their commanding 34-12 halftime lead.
“I think we just locked in,” said Todd Cottrell. “We guarded their actions pretty good. Our rotations were a lot better. We rebounded the ball. We contested shots. I don’t think they got a whole lot of open looks early. And then we scored on the other end, which helps.”
Lakeview Academy was never more “locked in” than in the opening few minutes of the game.
The Lions scored the first eight points, and held Tallulah Falls off the scoreboard for nearly five minutes of game time to start the game off. They allowed just seven points in the opening quarter, and followed it up by giving up only five points in the second frame.
The team gave up only four made shots in the entire first half.
“Our energy on the defensive end was key,” McIntyre said. “We were constantly trying to get stops and letting our offense come to us and not being so focused on that end, more so focusing on the defensive end.”
Despite trailing by 22 points at halftime, the Indians did fight back to start the third quarter.
Tallulah Falls started the second half on a 10-5 run, showing a flash of energy after looking sluggish throughout the opening two periods.
But Lakeview Academy’s lead was simply too much for the Indians to overcome.
Arturo Varela scored on a pair of feeds from Conley Millwood and Roman Yaskulka to push the lead back over 20 late in the third quarter. KJ Millwood drilled a 3-pointer with 16 seconds to go in the frame to make the advantage 27 going into the final period.
From there, the Lions managed to cruise to their easy win.
The victory is an encouraging one for a Lakeview Academy team that experienced a rare slump to finish out the regular season. With potential games against top two seeds Athens Academy and Riverside Military Academy looming, the Lions will need a couple more performances similar to this one if they want to have a chance to claim their third region title in the last four years.
“In the tournament, you just want to survive and advance, and we did that,” Todd Cottrell said. “We got to advance today. We’ll go back to work, get a little better, and see if we can figure out a way to advance next time. It’s going to be tough.”