Entering Tuesday night, the Lakeview Academy boys basketball team was the only squad that could boast of defeating Tallulah Falls this season.
Now the Lions can say they’ve done it twice.
No. 6 Lakeview Academy held off the 10th-ranked Indians for a 64-56 win to clinch the Region 8-A regular-season title at the Walters Athletic Center. The senior-laden Lions (19-5, 14-0 region) locked up the top seed in next week’s region tournament, putting them in prime position to repeat as champions.
“It was a great win for our guys,” Lakeview Academy coach Todd Cottrell said. “Tallulah is a really good team, and they were 22-1 for a reason. I thought we played well enough at times to get a little cushion. I was very pleased with our guys.”
Tallulah Falls (22-2, 12-2) could have evened the season series and created a tie for first place in the region by avenging their 59-51 home loss on Jan. 24.
But the Lions, who appeared at No. 1 in GHSA’s Class A private schools power ratings released Tuesday, relied on tough defense in the first half and streaky long-range shooting in the second to survive the Indians’ late push.
“We love playing Tallulah Falls,” senior forward Tre Gober said with a grin. “It’s a fun little rivalry we have, and it was just great to come out with the win tonight.”
The game’s first four possessions — all turnovers — were indicative of how both offenses performed early. Tallulah Falls didn’t score until nearly five minutes into the game and made only seven baskets before halftime, while Cottrell said he was displeased with his team’s lack of rhythm, despite leading 22-17 at the break.
Defense, however, wasn’t a problem for Lakeview Academy.
“We just played solid defense,” junior guard Drew Cottrell said. “We like to play defense and really take pride on the defensive end of the floor.”
But the Indians used a quick 6-0 spurt to take their first lead of the night just minutes after halftime. The Lions bounced back with a 16-0 run sparked by a pair of 3-pointers from both Drew Cottrell and his brother Adam, a resounding response their coach attributed to his team’s veteran leadership.
“We just calmed down and tried to play our way, play our pace,” said Drew Cottrell, who finished with 14 points. “We did a good job of that, I think.”
Tallulah Falls senior Josey Keene finally halted the run with a 3-pointer, followed by senior forward Thala Freeman’s 3-point play to reduce the deficit to single digits. But Lakeview Academy’s lead swelled again, partly thanks to reaching the bonus before the third quarter’s conclusion.
Gober, who finished with a game-high 18 points, hit 11 of his 12 free throws in the second half to keep the Indians at bay.
Michael Van Hooser (17 points) helped Tallulah Falls make one final push with a trio of 3-pointers in the final period, and senior Zatrick Pearce connected on a layup to make it 60-54 with 16.2 seconds left.
But Indians coach Jim Van Hooser drew a technical foul for calling a timeout despite having none, and the subsequent free throws gave the Lions enough breathing room to seal the victory.
“I think we put ourselves in a good position going into the tournament,” Todd Cottrell said. “That was a good team that has been up in the power rankings as well. A good win, but still a lot of basketball to be played.”
Senior forward Josh Randolph tallied a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds for Lakeview Academy, while Tallulah Falls senior guard Sanson Navarrete scored 10 points.
In all likelihood, the Lions will finished the year undefeated in region play when they tip off at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Providence Christian Academy, which has won just one game all season. The Senior Night contest could be a fitting finale for the only team to beat the Indians this season.
“We wanted to go out on top of the region again,” Gober said. “So it’s just a good feeling for all of our teammates and for the seniors.”
LAKEVIEW ACADEMY GIRLS 91, TALLULAH FALLS 75: Hanna Grogan’s 41 points weren’t even her biggest accomplishment Tuesday night.
The senior guard broke Lakeview Academy’s all-time scoring record for boys or girls as the No. 4 Lady Lions (20-4, 12-0 Region 8-A) cruised to a win. Grogan surpassed Holly Vandiver, who held the high mark with 2,049 points, on a basket midway through the third quarter.
“It was pretty amazing because I had all my teammates there to support me,” she said. “I worked hard. I played basketball ever since I was a kid. It feels good for something to finally pay off. It has been a goal, so now I’ve got to set higher goals. It feels really good.”
Senior guard Christen Copeland (10 points) was the only other player to score in double digits for Lakeview Academy, which ripped off a 26-10 run heading into halftime to put away the pesky Lady Indians (12-11, 8-4).
Of the four Tallulah Falls players who scored, three notched 20 or more points — Aida Roberts (25), Ashley Crosby (22) and Nyah Williams (21).
The Lady Lions can also close region play with an unblemished record when they host Providence Christian Academy at 6 p.m. Friday.