Three minutes into the third quarter, Lakeview Academy head coach Seth Vining stared out on to the court with a perplexed look on his face.
He had just watched his team come out of the locker room and turn the ball over seven times, turning a six-point deficit to a 12-point one in the span of just two minutes and 30 seconds.
“I was trying to figure out who to put in,” Vining said shortly after his Lions lost 82-66 to Athens Christian on Friday at the Walters Athletic Complex. “We came out flat and we couldn’t score.”
Not only did the Lions (2-5, 0-1 Region 8-A) have trouble scoring, but they had trouble holding on to the ball, as Athens Christian (6-1, 2-0) forced 12 third-quarter turnovers en route to a 26-point period.
The majority of those points came from Raymond Higgs, who scored 12 of his game-high 32 points in the third quarter.
“He’s not just a phenomenal athlete, he’s got good basketball skills too,” Vining said of the Bahamian track star Higgs, who captured a gold medal in the Olympic Trials in the high jump earlier this year.
“He’s a very talented player.”
Higgs, who scored 32 points for the second straight game, embodied the athleticism of the Eagles, who used a staunch full-court press to tire the Lions and force turnovers.
Athens Christian also got a strong performance from junior Chaz Sheats, who scored 21 points and pulled down a game-high nine rebounds.
“I think our quickness got to them a bit,” said Eagles assistant coach Tim Cummings, who was filling in for head coach Ron Link, who was home with an illness. “Our press helped us out a lot, and was able to get us good shots.”
While that was the case for the second half, it certainly wasn’t in the first 16 minutes of play.
Despite trailing by as much as 10 points in the first quarter, the Lions used an 8-0 run at the end of the quarter to cut the deficit to two. The spark was led by Nick Saye and Justin Chastain, who each scored four points in the first period.
With momentum on their side, the Lions reeled off a 5-0 run to start the second quarter and take their first lead of the game.
But an 0-for-9 shooting effort from beyond the 3-point arc by Lakeview, combined with the quickness of the Eagles defense allowed Athens Christian to respond with a 13-4 run to close out the quarter and take a lead they would never relinquish.
“They’re so athletic and so quick, they just went by us,” said Vining, whose team finished 5-for-25 (20 percent) from 3-point range. “You have to play hard against a team like this.”
Lakeview, was led by Daniel Olvera and Jake Kendrick, who scored nine points and Tyler Ward, who added eight.
Friday night’s win over Lakeview was the first win for Athens Christian in six tries. The Lions had won the previous five meetings by an average margin of 11.2 points. The Eagles, who shot 62 percent from the field Friday, have now won five straight games and have two more wins than they had all of last season.
Lakeview Academy visits Hebron Christian Academy at 7:30 tonight.
Lakeview Academy girls 48, Athens Christian 36
After starting the game 0-for-5 from the floor, the Lady Lions focused their efforts on defense. The defense, which got four steals each from Louisa Jacobs, Maddie Haymore and Brittany Moore, forced Athens Christian to commit 10 turnovers in the second quarter, and 11 more in the third quarter to propel the Lady Lions to a win on Friday at the Walters Athletic Center.
“We’re not quite a scoring machine,” said Lakeview coach Buster Brown, whose team forced 34 turnovers in the game. “But we changed our defense to a full-court press and that helped us get things going offensively.”
Leading the offensive charge for the Lady Lions (3-3, 1-0 Region 8-A) was Jacobs, who scored a game-high 17 points, and Moore, who scored 11 points, including three 3-pointers.
Haymore chipped in with nine points, while Megan Rochester added six points, five rebounds and three assists for Lakeview.
Senior Ashley Lillie led Athens Christian (1-6, 0-2) with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The win gives Lakeview Academy a six-game win streak against the Lady Eagles.