Notching a 72-45 win and regular season sweep of Riverside Military Academy Tuesday night at the Walters Athletic Center did a little more than boost the confidence of the Lakeview Academy boys basketball program.
The sixth-ranked Lions and current frontrunners of the Region 8-A are another step closer to claiming back-to-back league crowns, though enter a crucial showdown tonight with Tallulah Falls (21-1, 11-1 Region 8-A), which will likely determine the No. 1 seed for next week’s Region 8-A tournament.
The Lions (18-5, 13-0 Region 8-A) handed the No. 10 Indians their lone loss by a eight-point margin last week to gain a small leg up in the region standings.
Boys coach Todd Cottrell however is trusting of his experienced and diverse group that is capable of scoring points from any spot on the floor.
“We were very fortunate to beat them the first time, and our guys are excited to play a team like that,” Cottrell said of Tallulah Falls. “As far as what (we’ve) done over the past (year), this year’s team is a lot different than last year’s team.
"This year’s team is trying to make its own identity. They set some pretty high goals, and so far they’re on track to reach at least a couple of them.”
The Lions only trailed Riverside Military once early, but went on to lead by as much as 32 by the fourth period. Tre Gober pieced together a 22-point showing to lead all scorers, while fellow senior Drew Cottrell added 12 points, three rebounds and an assist for the Lions.
Senior forward Josh Randolph (six points) hauled in 10 rebounds for Lakeview Academy.
The Lions got some added production from the bench, a stat line which gave Cottrell and his starters plenty to smile about. Jack Blackburn dished five assists behind starter Ryan Lackey (7 points, 7 assists) and fueled a 10-0 run on the back end of the third period with a pair of steals. Sophomore Adam Cottrell drained a 3-pointer to give the Lions their second lead of the opening period and finished with nine points.
Junior Noah Lindler snagged a pair of rebounds off the bench for the Lions and pitched in a layup that elicited loud cheers from the home crowd.
“Our guys love each other, which is a really neat thing to see for kids this age,” Cottrell added of the group. “They want each other to do well. ...They got a chance to play a little bit, and they did some good things for us, and our guys are excited.”
Lakeview Academy only led 13-11 after the opening period, but quickly gained control with a long Drew Cottrell 3 at the start of the second quarter. The Lions broke it wide open before the half, as leading scorer Tre Gober scored eight on an 11-2 run that would span four minutes, and the Lions boasted a 12-point advantage at the break.
Meanwhile, Riverside Military (5-12, 4-9) exhibited its athleticism in the form of lead scorer Khalid Duke (15 points), Trey Greene (10 points) and Isaac Teasley (10 points), all doing most of their damage on the inside. A small run gave the Eagles a lead that was short lived midway through the opening period before turnovers began to mount.
The Eagles turned it over on three straight possessions to start the second quarter and couldn’t get much done moving forward.
The Eagles wound up turning it over 12 times for the half, 23 times for the contest.
“We forced them into some turnovers early, which helped us,” Cottrell said. “But they were doing so many good things. They were so athletic, and we were able to take advantage of their mistakes.
Tonight's tipoff with Tallulah Falls will be at 7:30 p.m. in Gainesville. Lakeview Academy will hold its team Senior Night friday, with the regular season finale against Providence Christian Academy to follow.