Josh Randolph’s confidence wasn’t shaken following Lakeview Academy’s disappointing 65-60 home loss to Hebron Christian Friday night.
Eyes locked forward, the sophomore guard said the Lions were prepared to respond, despite being dropped to the No. 2 seed in their subregion.
“We’re going to respond in a big way,” said Randolph, before pausing. “We’re going to respond in a huge way.”
Down by 15 late in the second quarter, Lakeview Academy (16-9, 10-3) mounted an exhaustive comeback that nearly paid off when Tae Turner’s off-balance 3-pointer cut the lead to three with 8.4 seconds left. But senior Cory Johnson (game-high 28 points) sank all six of his fourth quarter free throws to pull out the Hebron victory, the Lions’ seventh straight in region play.
Lakeview will have to wait to find out who it plays in the first round of the Region 8-A tournament at Prince Avenue Christian on Tuesday. Unfortunately, for Lakeview coach Todd Cottrell, the postseason just got tougher.
“We got caught up in some emotions,” he said. “The kids battled, they had a chance, but they could never get the shot they needed or the stop they needed to have. This region tournament just got a little bit tougher, but everything happens for a reason.”
Jaden Reid’s trey at the halftime buzzer was a welcome reprieve for Lakeview, which had been shot out of the building early in the contest, and went into the break down by 10.
Hebron’s shooters imposed their will from the start, including the deadly duo of Johnson and junior Luke Crawford. The two combined for 10 of Hebron’s 15 first-half field buckets, including Johnson’s three 3-pointers. Head coach Will Cantrell said his senior had been putting up “at least 1,000 shots” a day in the summer to train for his final year.
“He’s a special player,” said Cantrell. “He’s the hardest-working kid I’ve ever had. We have so much respect for Lakeview, and coach Cottrell, and this program, that whenever you beat them, it gives you confidence.”
As Lakeview tried to start a full-court press in the second half, Hebron began exploiting weaknesses at the top of the Lakeview paint. Hebron Christian scored each of their three opening baskets from the key before a smooth give-and-go between Johnson and senior Stephen Rogers found Rogers in open space for an easy transition layup to give Hebron Christian a 45-30 lead with 3:34 left in the third.
Cantrell said he knew Lakeview was due for a revival — he even told his Hebron team to expect it.
“We weren’t surprised,” he said. “They’ve got some good players, and basketball is a game of runs. It’s a hostile environment, so I told them, ‘you’ve got to weather the storm, however long that storm lasts.’”
Right on cue, the Lions began clawing back into contention.
Freshman Drew Cottrell (11 points) hit two of Lakeview’s three consecutive 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the third to gain some much-needed momentum.
With a raucous Lakeview student section in force, Hebron Christian began missing the easy floaters the team found so easy in the opening three quarters. The visitors made only one field goal in the fourth, a layup by John Dussling, but earned enough trips to the charity stripe to stay in the lead. Hebron sank 13 of its 19 free throws in the final eight minutes to keep Cottrell’s team at bay.
Randolph, buoyed by the confidence of his teammates, scored eight of his team-high 15 points for Lakeview in the fourth quarter that cut the lead to six with less than two minutes remaining.
Tae Turner’s driving layup chipped away at the lead before he sank a long three in the corner while falling out of bounds to make it 63-60 to Hebron with less than ten seconds on the clock. But Hebron’s Shane Smith made both of his foul shots on the ensuing possession, proving too much for Lakeview to overcome.
“Josh has been playing really well for about a month now,” said Cottrell. “He battles just like the rest of our guys. He had a chance, and he responded. This team has pretty big character, I love their heart.”
Randolph and Lakeview have less than four days to prepare for the upcoming region tournament, which will last from Tuesday-Saturday.
Randolph said his team will be mentally ready when that time comes.
“We were always confident, of course,” he said. “I can’t wait, we’re ready. We’re going to be ready.”
LAKEVIEW GIRLS 54, HEBRON CHRISTIAN 31: Nine different Lady Lions scored for Lakeview in a dominant win that gives Lakeview a No. 1 seed in next week’s region tournament, along with a regular season sweep over rival Hebron Christian.
Lakeview (16-8, 12-1 in Region 8-A) will next face the winner of a play-in game in the first round of the region tournament on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Prince Avenue Christian.
The win breaks a two-game losing streak, and should cement the Lions’ top-10 spot in the Class A power rankings.
Hanna Grogan led the Lady Lions with 12 points, while Hebron Christian’s Hannah Lentz led all scorers with 17.
Hebron Christian (7-15, 4-9) was held to four points in the second quarter, and went into halftime down by 20.
Lakeview opened the second half on the back of an 11-2 run before two back-to-back treys by Emma Grace Martin (6 points) pushed the Lakeview lead to 35 by the end of the third. Lakeview had previously beaten Hebron Christian by 15 in Dacula on Jan. 20.
Hebron Christian has lost 10 of its last 11 games.