For the first half of Tuesday night’s contest against Riverside Military, the Lakeview Academy boys basketball team lived up to its No. 1 billing in the GHSA’s latest power ratings.
The second half, not so much.
After building a 28-point halftime lead, the Lions had to sweat out a 59-45 win in the Region 8-A tournament quarterfinals at the Walters Athletic Center. Lakeview Academy coach Todd Cottrell took the blame for his team’s second-half struggles, which he attributed to his players losing their composure.
“The first half wasn’t as physical,” senior forward Josh Randolph said. “But in the second half, they sort of tried to make us lose our composure. But we played together as a team and got the win.”
The victory earned the Lions (21-5) a spot in the semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Friday, when they’ll face either Prince Avenue or Towns County. Those two teams square off today for the right to play Lakeview Academy, which is aiming to win its second straight region tournament.
Eagles coach Marvin Latham hopes that happens.
Riverside Military (9-13) appeared at No. 23 in Tuesday’s power ratings, the determining factor for which 24 teams will qualify for the state playoffs. If the Lions continue winning, they’ll improve the Eagles’ chances to make the postseason for the second year in a row.
“I told Lakeview I need them to keep winning so they can keep bumping our points up,” Latham said with a grin. “Hopefully we can do it again this year and represent our school well.”
If the Lions play like they did in the first half Tuesday night, Latham won’t have much to worry about.
Lakeview Academy seemed poised to run away with the game from the opening tip, as six players hit a basket in the first quarter to build a 24-6 lead. Randolph outscored Riverside Military, which had to win a tournament play-in game Saturday, by himself in the opening period with seven points.
Thanks to swarming defense and a potent post game, the Lions extended their lead to 38-10 at halftime. The Eagles made only two buckets and turned the ball over seven times in the second quarter as they struggled to mount an early comeback.
“I think we played pretty good defense, and that allowed us to get some open shots in transition,” Cottrell said. “Then we got some shots close to the basket, which helped.”
But sophomore guard Darrell White (13 points) hit back-to-back 3-pointers after the break to spark a quick 10-4 run for Riverside Military. Lakeview Academy still held a 48-24 advantage heading into the fourth quarter but soon saw its lead shrink to as little as 14.
“They made a quick run, and we just couldn’t seem to get a rhythm again,” Cottrell said. “Luckily, we had enough of a cushion to where it wasn’t as much of a factor as it probably could have been.”
The Eagles used a 17-3 run to cut their deficit to 55-41 with about three minutes to play. Sophomore Khalid Duke scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, during which the Lions made only two field goals.
But guards Ryan Lackey and Drew Cottrell — the latter of whom had a game-high 16 points — sank a combined 7 of 9 free throws in the final minutes to seal the victory.
Latham, however, was pleased with his team’s toughness down the stretch against a team it had lost to by 25 points twice this season.
“We just went in at halftime and told them, ‘Hey, what are you going to do — fight, or roll over and let them continue to do what they’re doing to you?’ Our kids took the challenge,” Latham said. “I’m proud of them.”
Duke grabbed 15 rebounds to attain a double-double, and senior Wiley Burns had one of his own with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Randolph produced 11 points and 11 rebounds in a double-double effort, while senior forward Tre Gober matched his scoring output.
LAKEVIEW ACADEMY GIRLS 61, ATHENS CHRISTIAN 39: Seniors Hanna Grogan and Ryann Moody scored 17 points apiece to lead the Lady Lions to a Region 8-A tournament quarterfinal win Tuesday night.
Lakeview Academy (22-4) led 15-11 after a tightly contested first quarter, which ended with freshman Jackie Allen sinking a 3-pointer at the buzzer. But the Lady Lions’ lead gradually grew over the next three quarters as they coasted into the semifinal round.
Junior Madison Pickerel tallied 19 points and seven rebounds, finishing as the only Lady Eagle to score in double digits.
Athens Christian (12-13) committed 21 turnovers after dominating Hebron Christian 55-18 on Monday to reach the quarterfinals.
Lakeview Academy, which ranked No. 6 in the GHSA Class A Private power ratings released Tuesday, will play at 7 p.m. Friday against the winner of Wednesday’s quarterfinal matchup between George Walton Academy and Towns County.